The Effect of Nonspecific Task Constraints on Quadrupedal Locomotion: I. Interlimb Coordination

in Motor Control
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The present study examined the effect of nonspecific task constraints on the multilimb coordination task of preferred-speed crawling. Adult subjects undertook three trials each of the following randomly ordered conditions: forward prone (FP), backward supine (BS), backward prone (BP) and forward supine (FS). Subjects adopted specific coordinative solutions consistent with task-related function rather than anatomical specification. The patterns were relatively stable, with BP being least stable. Across conditions, subjects changed their velocity in a predictable order that corresponded to the various constraints. These velocity changes were largely attributable to stride length adjustments and not limb frequency. Within a condition, neither velocity nor anthropometrics appeared to influence the coordinative solution. Overall, rather large differences were found in coordinative solutions, possibly owing to the nature of the tasks and/or individual searching strategies. The results were interpretable within a dynamic approach to coordination and support the idea that coordination is functionally rather than anatomically determined.

Jill Whitall and Larry Forrester are with the Department of Physical Therapy, 100 Penn St., University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21201. Nancy Getchell is with the Department of Elementary, Early Childhood and Physical Education, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 63121.

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