This study investigates how motor coordination undergoes the passage from a discrete to a continuous movement régime. Participants repeated concatenated discrete movements with each hand such that one hand was lagging the other by a quarter of a cycle (i.e., with a 90° phase difference). As movement frequency increased, the tendency to persist in this relative phase competed with a progressive effect of the interlimb coupling favoring 0° and 180°. In 61% of the participants, a switch from a discrete to a continuous motion régime was accompanied by a shift toward the 0° or 180°. The 0° was more often favored than 180°. The remaining participants sustained a relative phase close to 90° even at the highest movement frequency and proved to be more accurate at the initial lowest frequency. These findings indicate that a priming effect may circumvent the tendency to produce preferred patterns and favor the production of nonpreferred patterns and that initial individual differences affect how motor coordination evolves with changing constraints.
The authors are with Université de Toulouse, UPS, LAPMA, Toulouse Cedex, France.