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Mark L. Latash

Bernstein and the Problem of Motor Redundancy Nikolai Bernstein (1896–1966) was the first to bring attention to many problems in the field of motor control that remain in the focus of the scientific community. His analysis of the relation between structure and function within the central nervous

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Edited by Mark Latash

It is suggested that the famous problem of motor redundancy is inapplicable to human voluntary movements. Such notions as “the elimination of biomechanical degrees of freedom” should not be used in human movement studies. During natural movements, elements within apparently redundant sets are all involved in solving motor tasks. The abundance of elements is a keystone forming the foundation of motor synergies. It allows natural movements to display both flexibility and stability.

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Julien Jacquier-Bret, Nasser Rezzoug and Philippe Gorce

In the presence of motor redundancy, recent studies have shown that goal equivalent configurations of the body segments might be used by the central nervous system (CNS) instead of stereotypical movement patterns. In particular, some authors have shown that the CNS might choose a subset of joint configurations (termed the uncontrolled manifold or UCM) such that variability (goal equivalent variance or GEV) in this subset does not affect the value of a particular performance variable while variability in the orthogonal subset ORT (non-goal equivalent variance or NGEV) does. This hypothesis has been used successfully to test whether specific performance variables such as endpoint trajectory or segment global orientation are stabilized by the CNS or to study the influence of constraints on the organization of the movement. Few studies have examined the redundancy problem when considering obstacle avoidance during a grasping task. Indeed, the majority of the works on this topic considers non redundant arm models or do not take into account the movement variability. In the present work, we sought to study the coordination of the trunk and the arm during a reaching task involving an obstacle and to test whether such a spatial constraint in extrinsic space may induce particular adaptations in term of joint flexibility when considering the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joint center positions. In this framework, the upper limb three-dimensional kinematics was recorded. From the calculated joint angles, the variability in joint space related to the three joint center positions was computed and decomposed into GEV and NGEV. In agreement with the UCM hypothesis, results showed higher values of GEV than NGEV for all the experimental conditions. The main finding of the study is that joints’ synergy is strengthened for the stabilization of the elbow joint center position during the late phases of the movement. This strengthening seems to be due mainly to an increase of GEV. Therefore, our results suggest that an increase of joint flexibility may be a mechanism by which the CNS takes into account a spatial constraint in extrinsic space represented by an obstacle.

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Jurjen Bosga and Ruud G. J. Meulenbroek

In this study we investigated redundancy control in joint action. Ten participantpairs (dyads) performed a virtual lifting task in which isometric forces needed to be generated with two or four hands. The participants were not allowed to communicate but received continuous visual feedback of their performance. When the task had to be performed with four hands, participants were confronted with a redundant situation and between-hand force synergies could, in principle, be formed. Performance timing, success rates, cross-correlations, and relative phase analyses of the force-time functions were scrutinized to analyze such task-dependent synergies. The results show that even though the dyads performed the task slower and less synchronized in the joint than in the solo conditions, the success rates in these conditions were identical. Moreover, correlation and relative phase analyses demonstrated that, as expected, the dyads formed between-participant synergies that were indicative of force sharing in redundant task conditions.

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Margaret K.Y. Mak, Oron Levin, Joseph Mizrahi and Christina W.Y. Hui-Chan

Calculation of joint torques during the rising phase of sit-to-stand motion is in most cases indeterminate, due to the unknown thighs/chair reaction forces in addition to the other sources of uncertainties such as joint positioning and anthropometric data. In the present study we tested the reliability of computation of the joint torques from a five-segment model; we used force plate data of thighs/chair and feet/ground reaction forces, in addition to kinematic measurements. While solving for joint torques before and after seat-off, differences between model solutions and measured data were calculated and minimized using an iterative algorithm for the reestimation of joint positioning and anthropometric properties. The above method was demonstrated for a group of six normal elderly persons.

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Gerald E. Loeb

The number of muscles in the body is actually fairly close to the number required to control completely all its degrees of freedom. The apparent need for a coordinating principle arises from the experimental practice of asking subjects to perform simple movements and assuming that they make no implicit assumptions about other constraints. Natural activities include implicit constraints that differ greatly for different tasks and circumstances and that would be met best by a nervous system free of a priori principles.

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Jurjen Bosga, Ruud G. J. Meulenbroek and Raymond H. Cuijpers

In this study, we investigate how two persons (dyads) coordinate their movements when performing cyclical motion patterns on a rocking board. In keeping with the Leading Joint Hypothesis (Dounskaia, 2005), the movement dynamics of the collaborating participants were expected to display features of a prime mover with low movement variability. Fourteen subject pairs performed the task in nine amplitude-frequency combinations that were presented in the form of a to-be-tracked stimulus on a computer display. Participants were asked to track the stimulus by jointly rocking the Board sideways while receiving continuous visual feedback of its rotations. Displacements of 28 IREDS that were attached to the rocking board, both ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and heads of both actors, were sampled at 75 Hz by means of a 3D-motion tracking system. From these data, we derived body-segment angular excursions as well as the continuous relative phase and time-lagged cross-correlations between relevant joint excursions. The results show that, at the intrapersonal level, knee rotations initially led all other joints in time while the antiphase coordination between the knees displayed relative low variability. At the interpersonal level, dyads adopted a leader-follower strategy with respect to the coordination demands of the task. We take that knee rotations create a dynamic foundation at both intra- and interpersonal levels involving subordination of individual action to joint performance thereby allowing for low-dimensional control of joint action in a high-dimensional, repetitive motor task.

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Tao Zhou, Stanislaw Solnik, Yen-Hsun Wu and Mark L. Latash

We tested a prediction that equifinality at the task level may be accompanied by violations of equifinality within the redundant set of elemental variables. Seated subjects grasped a handle, and occupied an initial arm configuration against a bias force produced by a robot. The robot applied a smooth, transient change in the force (perturbation). The subjects were instructed “not to intervene voluntarily” with hand deviations. After the robot force returned to the bias value, the hand returned close to the original position and orientation. Analysis of across-trials variance in the joint configuration space confirmed that most variance of the difference between the initial and final states was compatible with unchanged values of both hand position and orientation. These results provide direct support for the theoretical scheme that combines the ideas of synergies and control with referent configurations.

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Ya-weng Tseng and John P. Scholz

The uncontrolled manifold approach was used to examine the effect of workspace location on the use of motor abundance to control the hand’s path during reaching. Participants pointed to targets located in the contralateral and ipsilateral workspaces at two different distances. When reaching to all parts of the workspace, the component of joint configuration variance consistent with an identical hand path across trials was significantly higher than the component of joint configuration variance leading to a variable hand path. The relative magnitude of this difference was affected primarily by target orientation and minimally by target distance. The control of hand-path direction when reaching ipsilaterally was associated with more selective use of motor abundance compared to reaching contralaterally. The control of hand-path extent was not affected by target orientation. Biomechanical factors are discussed as possible reasons that lead to the observed selective workspace effects.