Rejecting the Equilibrium-Point Hypothesis

in Motor Control
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The lambda version of the equilibrium-point (EP) hypothesis as developed by Feldman and colleagues has been widely used and cited with insufficient critical understanding. This article offers a small antidote to that lack. First, the hypothesis implicitly, unrealistically assumes identical transformations of lambda into muscle tension for antagonist muscles. Without that assumption, its definitions of command variables R, C, and lambda are incompatible and an EP is not defined exclusively by R nor is it unaffected by C. Second, the model assumes unrealistic and unphysiological parameters for the damping properties of the muscles and reflexes. Finally, the theory lacks rules for two of its three command variables. A theory of movement should offer insight into why we make movements the way we do and why we activate muscles in particular patterns. The EP hypothesis offers no unique ideas that are helpful in addressing either of these questions.

Gerald L. Gottlieb is with Boston University NeuroMuscular Research Center, 44 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215.

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