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Raoul Huys, Andreas Daffertshofer and Peter J. Beek

To study the acquisition of perceptual-motor skills as an instance of dynamic pattern formation, we examined the evolution of postural sway and eye and head movements in relation to changes in performance, while 13 novices practiced 3-ball cascade juggling for 9 weeks. Ball trajectories, postural sway, and eye and head movements were recorded repeatedly. Performance improved exponentially, both in terms of the number of consecutive throws and the degree of frequency and phase locking between the ball trajectories. These aspects of performance evolved at different time scales, indicating the presence of a temporal hierarchy in learning. Postural sway, and eye and head movements were often 3:2 and sometimes 3:1 frequency locked to the ball trajectories. As a rule, the amplitudes of these oscillatory processes decreased exponentially at rates similar to that of the increase in the degree of phase locking between the balls. In contrast, the coordination between these oscillatory processes evolved exponentially at different time scales, apart from some erratic evolutions. Collectively, these findings indicate that skill acquisition in the perceptual-motor domain involves multiple time scales and multiform dynamics, both in terms of the development of the goal behavior itself and the evolution of the processes subserving this goal behavior.

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Peter J. Beek and Onno G. Meijer

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Harjo J. de Poel, C.E. Peper and Peter J. Beek

Based on indications that hand dominance is characterized by asymmetrical interlimb coupling strength (with the dominant hand exerting stronger influences on the nondominant hand than vice versa), intentional switches between rhythmic bimanual coordination patterns were predicted to be mediated primarily by phase adaptations in the movements of the nondominant hand. This hypothesis was supported for both right-handed and left-handed participants who performed voluntary switches from in-phase to antiphase coordination or vice versa, at four different frequencies. In accordance with previous indications that handedness is expressed less consistently in left-handers, the asymmetry between the hands was less pronounced in left-handed than in right-handed participants. The asymmetry was smaller for switches from in-phase to antiphase coordination (i.e., in the direction opposite to spontaneous transitions) than for switches in the reverse direction, suggesting that (the expression of) the handedness-related asymmetry in coupling strength was weakened by intentional processes associated with these switches.

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Claudia Emck, Ruud J. Bosscher, Piet C.W. van Wieringen, Theo Doreleijers and Peter J. Beek

Children with psychiatric disorders often demonstrate gross motor problems. This study investigates if the reverse also holds true by assessing psychiatric symptoms present in children with gross motor problems. Emotional, behavioral, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), as well as psychosocial problems, were assessed in a sample of 40 children with gross motor problems from an elementary school population (aged 7 through 12 years). Sixty-five percent of the sample met the criteria for psychiatric classification. Anxiety disorders were found most often (45%), followed by ASD (25%) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (15%). Internalizing (51%) and social problems (41%) were prominent, as was “stereotyped behavior” (92%) and “resistance to changes” (92%). Self-perceived incompetence was restricted to domains that were indeed impaired (i.e., the athletic and social domains). The results suggest that children with gross motor problems are strongly at risk for psychiatric problems including anxiety, internalization, and ASD.

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Josje van Houwelingen, Sander Schreven, Jeroen B.J. Smeets, Herman J.H. Clercx and Peter J. Beek

In this paper, a literature review is presented regarding the hydrodynamic effects of different hand and arm movements during swimming with the aim to identify lacunae in current methods and knowledge, and to distil practical guidelines for coaches and swimmers seeking to increase swimming speed. Experimental and numerical studies are discussed, examining the effects of hand orientation, thumb position, finger spread, sculling movements, and hand accelerations during swimming, as well as unsteady properties of vortices due to changes in hand orientation. Collectively, the findings indicate that swimming speed may be increased by avoiding excessive sculling movements and by spreading the fingers slightly. In addition, it appears that accelerating the hands rather than moving them at constant speed may be beneficial, and that (in front crawl swimming) the thumb should be abducted during entry, catch, and upsweep, and adducted during the pull phase. Further experimental and numerical research is required to confirm these suggestions and to elucidate their hydrodynamic underpinnings and identify optimal propulsion techniques. To this end, it is necessary that the dynamical motion and resulting unsteady effects are accounted for, and that flow visualization techniques, force measurements, and simulations are combined in studying those effects.

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Betteco J. de Boer, C. (Lieke) E. Peper and Peter J. Beek

Developmental changes in bimanual coordination were examined in four age groups: 6/7, 10/11, 14/15 years, and young adults. Temporal coupling was assessed through the stabilizing contributions of interlimb interactions related to planning, error correction, and reflexes during rhythmic wrist movements, by comparing various unimanual and bimanual tasks involving passive and active movements. Spatial coupling was assessed via bimanual line-circle drawing. With increasing age, temporal stability improved. Relative contributions of planning and reflex interactions to the achieved stability did not change, whereas error correction improved. In-phase and antiphase coordination developed at similar rates; implications of this result were discussed in terms of mirror-activity inhibition. Overall spatial drawing performance (circularity, variability, smoothness) improved with age, and spatial interference was smaller in adults than children. Whereas temporal coupling increased from 6/7 years to adulthood, spatial coupling changed mainly after 14/15 years. This difference in the development of temporal and spatial coupling corresponds to the anterior-posterior direction of corpus callosum myelination as reported in the literature.

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Melvyn Roerdink, Paulina J. M. Bank, C. (Lieke) E. Peper and Peter J. Beek

Rhythmic limb movements are often anchored at particular points in the movement cycle. Anchoring may reveal essential task-specific information for motor control. We examined the effect of tracking mode (in-phase, antiphase) and gaze direction (left, right) on anchoring in visuomotor tracking with and without concurrent visual feedback of the hand movement. For in-phase tracking, anchoring was observed at the foveated reversal point whereas for antiphase tracking anchoring was observed at both reversals, suggesting the presence of two reference points instead of one. Anchoring at the foveated reversal reflected gaze anchoring (i.e., coalignment of hand and gaze) while anchoring at the nonfoveated reversal reflected visuomotor synchronization (i.e., the hand was steered to the nonfoveated reversal coincident with a target reversal at the point of gaze). We propose that the number and location of anchor points play a crucial role in the underlying control by providing reference values for error correction processes.

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Betteco J. de Boer, C. (Lieke) E. Peper, Arne Ridderikhoff and Peter J. Beek

In the current study, we examined whether coupling influences resulting from unintended afference-based phase entrainment are affected by movement amplitude as such or by the amplitude relation between the limbs. We assessed entrainment strength by studying how passive movements of the contralateral hand influenced unimanual coordination with a metronome. Results showed that amplitude as such did not affect entrainment strength, whereas the amplitude relation between the hands did. Larger amplitudes of the passive hand relative to the active hand resulted in stronger entrainment. This dependence on relative amplitude implies that entrainment strength is not only based on the intensity of afferent signals generated in the entraining limb but also on the susceptibility of the entrained limb to these signals.

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Auke A. Post, Gert de Groot, Andreas Daffertshofer and Peter J. Beek

In mechanical studies of pumping a playground swing, two methods of energy insertion have been identified: parametric pumping and driven oscillation. While parametric pumping involves the systematic raising and lowering of the swinger’s center of mass (CM) along the swing’s radial axis (rope), driven oscillation may be conceived as rotation of the CM around a pivot point at a fixed distance to the point of suspension. We examined the relative contributions of those two methods of energy insertion by inviting 18 participants to pump a swing from standstill and by measuring and analyzing the swing-swinger system (defined by eight markers) in the sagittal plane. Overall, driven oscillation was found to play a major role and parametric pumping a subordinate role, although the relative contribution of driven oscillation decreased as swinging amplitude increased, whereas that of parametric pumping increased slightly. Principal component analysis revealed that the coordination pattern of the swing-swinger system was largely determined (up to 95%) by the swing’s motion, while correlation analysis revealed that (within the remaining 5% of variance) trunk and leg rotations were strongly coupled.

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Peter Beek, Maarten Bobbert, Gert de Groot, Peter Hollander, Jos de Koning, Knoek van Soest and Huub Toussaint