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Summary: Visible Human data as a standard for biomechanicalmodels?

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  • Summary: Visible Human data as a standard for biomechanicalmodels?

    Thanks to everyone who responded to my posting about the suitability of
    the Visible Human data as a standard model for biomechanical studies.
    Many interesting points were raised, such as the source of the data
    (the ethics of using data from an executed convict), the need for 50th
    percentile data in safety studies, and the possibility of scaling
    Visible Human data to fit a 50th percentile model.

    The original posting is below, followed by the responses.

    Original posting:


    Although many of us involved in modeling of human biomechanics often
    develop models of the 50th percentile male or female, each research
    group's model is slightly different. The Visible Human Project has made
    it possible to develop musculoskeletal models (e.g., [1]) from a single
    set of image data. If models are created from these data, it seems to me
    that it would facilitate the creation of standard human biomechanical

    However, one potential problem with the Visible Male dataset is its
    size. ( I haven't evaluated the Visible Female dataset yet). A
    comparison with the 1988 US Army Anthropometric Survey [2], showed that
    the Visible Male is 3% taller and 15% heavier than the 50th percentile
    male. I personally am interested in the neck musculoskeletal system, and
    found that certain external head and neck dimensions were 6-30% greater
    than the 50th percentile male. Garner and Pandy measured arm muscle
    volumes from Visible Male images that were more than 3 times greater
    than in anatomical studies (which were primarily done in cadavers). Even
    considering the difference between live human and cadaver muscles, the
    Visible Male seems to be an extremely big, muscular guy. This would
    likely mean larger estimated magnitudes of muscle forces and moment arms
    compared to a 50th percentile male.

    Despite these size issues, I still see value in developing models from
    Visible Human data, for elucidating general principles of biomechanics
    and motor control. While I'm not advocating use of the Visible Human
    data as the *only* standard for biomechanical models, I would like to
    hear people's opinions on its use. Is it reasonable to use the data as a
    representation of the average male or female, or is size a problem? Do
    people anticipate that its use will facilitate sharing of data? Do
    people have any other comments or concerns about using the Visible Human
    dataset for biomechanical studies? As always, I will post a summary of

    Anita Vasavada

    [1] Garner, B, and Pandy, M (2001). Computer Methods in Biomechanics and
    Biomedical Engineering 4: 93-126.
    [2] Gordon, CC, et al. (1989). 1988 anthropometric survey of U.S. army
    personnel: methods and summary statistics.


    From Arno Grunendahl (

    Hi Anita,

    I'm doing FE-modelling of human lumbar spine.
    As it was not possible for me to derive a FE-model from own CT data, I was
    very interested in the Visible Human Project. To my disappointment I found
    that data (pictures) can only be exported in standart picture formats (tif,
    jpeg, eps etc.) but these formats are not supported by FE programs.
    So I gave up Visible Human Project.
    Maybe there is a way to transform Visible Human Data, that I don't know.
    Silly me.....



    >From Mark Thompson (

    Hi Anita

    Not a biomechanically related observation at all, but I feel that some
    people may be unhappy with working with data obtained from executed
    criminals. I suppose that practically, since the data exist, they ought to
    be used, but the question of the ethics of how one obtains detailed
    anatomical measurements ought to be part of the general discussion of which
    sources of those data one ought to use.

    best wishes


    __________________________________________________ ____

    Mark Thompson, PhD
    Biomechanics Laboratory
    Department of Orthopaedics
    Lund University Hospital
    S-22185 Lund

    >From Gary Christopher (


    I recently (last Fall) posed this question to my major professor, and while
    our discussion didn't really go anywhere, I think it would be beneficial to
    develop models, including mass-inertial characteristics, from the Visible
    Human Project data set. Any differences between the Visible Human
    characteristics could be scaled to (more closely) "match" the 50th
    percentile male and/or female. I believe this to be of great potential for
    the biomechanics community, and development of models based on these data
    sets should be pursued diligently (perhaps I have stumbled across a
    potential dissertation topic!).

    Gary Christopher
    MS, ATC

    >From A.J. ChandraSekhar (

    Dear Anita,

    I come from engineering background, we work with 50thPercentile dummies

    for occupant safety studies. Its a standard practice to do so , as validated

    results are also available for these. Does safety study fall into what you are

    terming as biomechanical study ? If yes it should get acceptance in the

    automotive safety world before it becomes a everyday practice , with a

    good reason to do so.

    I don't know whether i made relevant sense,as I come from a different

    background, but subscribe to this group as it helps understand the

    full perspective .



    Axiom Consulting.

    >From Dave Hawkins (

    I believethat the Visible Human project has provided us with valuable information
    that may be used to develop musculoskeletal models. Based on data
    from this project we developed a digital lower limb musculoskeletal model
    (1), computational techniques to alter the size of the musculature within
    this model (to address similar concerns to the size concerns that you
    expressed) (2), and are currently using this model to address a variety
    of questions about the interactions between limb morphology and movement
    dynamics. Hope this helps

    1. Barr, A., and Hawkins, D. An anatomical database providing
    three-dimensional geometric representation of lower limb
    structures. Journal of Applied Biomechanics , 2000, 16:301-308.
    2. Hawkins, D , and Barr, A. A computational approach for
    simulating muscle morphologic changes in musculoskeletal modeling.
    Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, 2001,

    Anita Vasavada, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Departments of Biological Systems Engineering and VCAPP
    Programs in Bioengineering and Neuroscience
    Washington State University
    Pullman, WA 99164-6120
    voice: (509) 335-7533
    fax: (509) 335-4650

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