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Developing a musculoskeletal model of the primate skull: predicting muscle activations, bite force and joint reaction forces using multibody dynamics analysis and advanced optimisation methods

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
DatePublished - 7 Oct 2012
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)21-30
Original languageEnglish


An accurate, dynamic, functional model of the skull that can be used to predict muscle forces, bite forces, and joint reaction forces would have many uses across a broad range of disciplines. One major issue however with musculoskeletal analyses is that of muscle activation pattern indeterminacy. A very large number of possible muscle force combinations will satisfy a particular functional task. This makes predicting physiological muscle recruitment patterns difficult. Here we describe in detail the process of development of a complex multibody computer model of a primate skull (Macaca fascicularis), that aims to predict muscle recruitment patterns during biting. Using optimisation criteria based on minimisation of muscle stress we predict working to balancing side muscle force ratios, peak bite forces, and joint reaction forces during unilateral biting. Validation of such models is problematic; however we have shown comparable working to balancing muscle activity and TMJ reaction ratios during biting to those observed in vivo and that peak predicted bite forces compare well to published experimental data. To our knowledge the complexity of the musculoskeletal model is greater than any previously reported for a primate. This complexity, when compared to more simple representations provides more nuanced insights into the functioning of masticatory muscles. Thus, we have shown muscle activity to vary throughout individual muscle groups, which enables them to function optimally during specific masticatory tasks. This model will be utilised in future studies into the functioning of the masticatory apparatus.

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