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  • Author: Mark L. Latash x
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Mark L. Latash

The target article presents a review of the neural control of the human hand. The review emphasizes the physical approach to motor control. It focuses on such concepts as equilibrium-point control, control with referent body configurations, uncontrolled manifold hypothesis, principle of abundance, hierarchical control, multidigit synergies, and anticipatory synergy adjustments. Changes in aspects of the hand neural control with age and neurological disorder are discussed. The target article is followed by six commentaries written by Alexander Aruin, Kelly Cole, Monica Perez, Robert Sainburg, Marco Sanello, and Wei Zhang.

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Mark L. Latash

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Edited by Mark L. Latash

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Mark L. Latash

The article offers a way to unite three recent developments in the field of motor control and coordination: (1) The notion of synergies is introduced based on the principle of motor abundance; (2) The uncontrolled manifold hypothesis is described as offering a computational framework to identify and quantify synergies; and (3) The equilibrium-point hypothesis is described for a single muscle, single joint, and multijoint systems. Merging these concepts into a single coherent scheme requires focusing on control variables rather than performance variables. The principle of minimal final action is formulated as the guiding principle within the referent configuration hypothesis. Motor actions are associated with setting two types of variables by a controller, those that ultimately define average performance patterns and those that define associated synergies. Predictions of the suggested scheme are reviewed, such as the phenomenon of anticipatory synergy adjustments, quick actions without changes in synergies, atypical synergies, and changes in synergies with practice. A few models are briefly reviewed.

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Edited by Mark L. Latash

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Mark L. Latash

Living systems may be defined as systems able to organize new, biology-specific, laws of physics and modify their parameters for specific tasks. Examples include the force-length muscle dependence mediated by the stretch reflex, and the control of movements with modification of the spatial referent coordinates for salient performance variables. Low-dimensional sets of referent coordinates at a task level are transformed to higher-dimensional sets at lower hierarchical levels in a way that ensures stability of performance. Stability of actions can be controlled independently of the actions (e.g., anticipatory synergy adjustments). Unintentional actions reflect relaxation processes leading to drifts of corresponding referent coordinates in the absence of changes in external load. Implications of this general framework for movement disorders, motor development, motor skill acquisition, and even philosophy are discussed.

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Mark L. Latash

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Mark L. Latash and Irina L. Mikaelian

We explored the relations between task difficulty and speech time in picture description tasks. Six native speakers of Mandarin Chinese (CH group) and six native speakers or Indo-European languages (IE group) produced quick and accurate verbal descriptions of pictures in a self-paced manner. The pictures always involved two objects, a plate and one of the three objects (a stick, a fork, or a knife) located and oriented differently with respect to the plate in different trials. An index of difficulty was assigned to each picture. CH group showed lower reaction time and much lower speech time. Speech time scaled linearly with the log-transformed index of difficulty in all subjects. The results suggest generality of Fitts’ law for movement and speech tasks, and possibly for other cognitive tasks as well. The differences between the CH and IE groups may be due to specific task features, differences in the grammatical rules of CH and IE languages, and possible use of tone for information transmission.