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Caroline J. Ketcham, Natalia V. Dounskaia, and George E. Stelmach

The present study investigates whether regulation of interactive torque during multijoint movements decays with advanced age as a result of declines in the motor system. Young and elderly adults repeatedly drew a circle and ovals oriented in different directions using shoulder and elbow joint movements. Each template was traced at three levels of cycling frequency with and without vision. Although vision did not affect performance, increases in cycling frequency caused distortions of movement trajectories in both groups. The pattern of distortions differed, however, between the groups. These differences were accounted for by differences in elbow control. Young adults provided regulation of elbow amplitude and timing by matching muscle torque magnitude with increased interactive torque. In contrast, elderly adults did not increase muscle torque magnitude and modulated torque timing for elbow motion regulation. This strategy is discussed as adaptation to decrements in the aging motor system.

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Natalia V. Dounskaia, Caroline J. Ketcham, and George E. Stelmach

Influence of mechanical interactions between the shoulder and elbow on production of different coordination patterns during horizontal arm movements is investigated in the present study. Subjects performed cyclical movements along a circle and along lines of 4 different orientations. Cycling frequency was manipulated to highlight control features responsible for interactive torque regulation. When the shoulder was involved in motion, torque analysis revealed that this joint was controlled similarly during all movement types. At the elbow, however, each movement type required a specific pattern of regulation of interactive torque with muscle torque. When interactive torque acted in the direction of the required elbow rotation, the demands for active control were lower than when the interactive torque resisted elbow motion and had to be actively suppressed. Kinematic analysis demonstrated that increases in cycling frequency systematically deformed the fingertip path. The amount of these deformations differed across movement types, being more pronounced for movements where the interactive torque resisted joint motion. It appears that interactive torque can assist or resist movement at the joints, making control of some movement types more difficult than others.