tremor characterization, tremor distribution, degrees of freedom, biomechanics, physiological systems, essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease


Although tremor is the most common movement disorder, there are few non-invasive treatment options. Creating effective tremor suppression devices requires a knowledge of where tremor originates mechanically (which muscles) and how it propagates through the limb (to which degrees of freedom, DOF).

To simulate tremor propagation, we created a simple model of the upper limb, with tremorogenic activity in the 15 major superficial muscles as inputs and tremulous joint displacement in the 7 major DOF as outputs. The model approximated the muscle excitation-contraction dynamics, musculoskeletal geometry, and mechanical impedance of the limb.

From our simulations, we determined fundamental principles for tremor propagation: 1) The distribution of tremor depends strongly on musculoskeletal dynamics. 2) The spreading of tremor is due to inertial coupling (primarily) and musculoskeletal geometry (secondarily). 3) Tremorogenic activity in a given muscle causes significant tremor in only a small subset of DOF, though these affected DOF may be distant from the muscle. 4) Assuming uniform distribution of tremorogenic activity among muscles, tremor increases proximal-distally, and the contribution from muscles increases proximal-distally. 5) Although adding inertia (e.g. with weighted utensils) is often used to suppress tremor, it is possible to increase tremor by adding inertia to the wrong DOF. 6) Similarly, adding viscoelasticity to the wrong DOF can increase tremor. Based solely on the musculoskeletal system, these principles indicate that tremor treatments targeting muscles should focus first on the distal muscles, and devices targeting DOF should focus first on the distal DOF.

Original Publication Citation

Corie, T. H. and S. K. Charles (2019). "Simulated Tremor Propagation in the Upper Limb: From Muscle Activity to Joint Displacement." Journal of Biomechanical Engineering-Transactions of the Asme 141(8): 17.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor