Dr Jeffery Rankin

As a Research Fellow in Computer Modelling and Simulation at The Royal Veterinary College’s Structure & Motion Lab, I am interested in improving our understanding of the basic principles that underpin musculoskeletal function during animal movement in order to provide new insight about how animals select neural control strategies over a wide variety of movements. This basic knowledge is critical for creating a sound scientific foundation to develop human-centred technology such as assistive devices (e.g., neuroprosthetics), biomimetic robotics (e.g., exoskeletal devices) and rehabilitation programs. As such, my research aims to identify how different neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems accomplish a wide range of motor tasks by addressing questions such as “What are the functional roles of muscles that contribute to a movement?” or ”How does altering movement constraints influence neural control?”. Because these questions cannot be addressed using a purely experimental approach (due to the complexity of the musculoskeletal system and difficulty in making direct measurements of musculoskeletal variables such as muscle force), I combine experimental techniques with advanced musculoskeletal models and computer simulations that can provide novel insights into how the musculoskeletal system works to create movement.

Broiler chickens provide a unique opportunity to study many aspects of musculoskeletal function due to their rapid growth that generates large changes in morphology over a short time period. Identifying changes in the chicken musculoskeletal system in parallel with the altered mechanical demands of walking over time will provide insight into how these birds change their walking strategy or why they suffer from musculoskeletal pathologies. Not only will this information help improve broiler chicken welfare, but the insights gained here have the potential to inform human research (e.g., links between obesity and stability/joint pathologies).