The mathematical description of the body centre of mass 3D path in human and animal locomotion

Alberto E Minetti, Caterina Cisotti, Omar S Mian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the 3D trajectory of the body centre of mass during ambulation constitutes the 'locomotor signature' at different gaits and speeds for humans and other legged species, no quantitative method for its description has been proposed in the literature so far. By combining the mathematical discoveries of Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768-1830, analysis of periodic events) and of Jules Antoine Lissajous (1822-1880, parametric equation for closed loops) we designed a method simultaneously capturing the spatial and dynamical features of that 3D trajectory. The motion analysis of walking and running humans, and the re-processing of previously published data on trotting and galloping horses, as moving on a treadmill, allowed to obtain closed loops for the body centre of mass showing general and individual locomotor characteristics. The mechanical dynamics due to the different energy exchange, the asymmetry along each 3D axis, and the sagittal and lateral energy recovery, among other parameters, were evaluated for each gait according to the present methodology. The proposed mathematical description of the 3D trajectory of the body centre of mass could be used to better understand the physiology and biomechanics of normal locomotion, from monopods to octopods, and to evaluate individual deviations with respect to average values as resulting from gait pathologies and the restoration of a normal pattern after pharmacological, physiotherapeutic and surgical treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1471-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2011


  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer Simulation
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Locomotion
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Movement

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