Although tremor is the most common movement disorder, there are few noninvasive 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 seven 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.

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