, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 277–292 | Cite as

Description of joint movements in human and non-human primate locomotion using Fourier analysis

Original Article


To describe and help interpret joint movements in various forms of primate locomotion, we explored the use of Fourier analysis to represent changing joint angles as a series of sine and cosine curves added together to approximate the raw angular data. Results are presented for four joints (shoulder, elbow, hip and knee) with emphasis on the shoulder, and for five types of locomotion (catarhine primate quadrupedal walking, human hands-and-feet creeping and hands-and-knees creeping, and human walking and running). Fourier analysis facilitates functional interpretation of the angles of all four joints, by providing average joint angles and an indication of the number of peaks and troughs in the angular data. The description of limb movements also afforded us the opportunity to compare human and other catarhine joint angles, and we interpret the Fourier results in terms of locomotor posture and type. In addition, the shoulder data are useful for determination of some aspects of interlimb coordination. Non-human primates walking quadrupedally and humans creeping on hands and knees generally evince diagonal couplets interlimb coordination, in which the hand on one side strikes the substrate at about the same time as the contralateral foot or knee. Furthermore, human walking and running seem to follow a similar pattern, as indicated by Fourier analysis. From our data it is concluded that human bipedal gaits are qualitatively similar to diagonal couplets gaits in other primates, but quite different from the lateral couplets gaits used by many non-primate mammals. A number of other benefits of Fourier analysis in primate locomotion studies are also discussed. These include the ability to make statistical comparisons among various types of limb movements in a wide variety of species, a simple archival technique for limb movement data, and a greater understanding of the variability of locomotor movements.


Joint angle Interlimb coordination Locomotion Fourier analysis 


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and SociologyKutztown UniversityKutztownUSA
  2. 2.School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Behavioural SciencesDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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