Equifinality and its violations in a redundant system: Multifinger accurate force production

Luke Wilhelm, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Mark L. Latash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We explored a hypothesis that transient perturbations applied to a redundant system result in equifinality in the space of task-related performance variables but not in the space of elemental variables. The subjects pressed with four fingers and produced an accurate constant total force level. The "inverse piano" device was used to lift and lower one of the fingers smoothly. The subjects were instructed "not to intervene voluntarily" with possible force changes. Analysis was performed in spaces of finger forces and finger modes (hypothetical neural commands to fingers) as elemental variables. Lifting a finger led to an increase in its force and a decrease in the forces of the other three fingers; the total force increased. Lowering the finger back led to a drop in the force of the perturbed finger. At the final state, the sum of the variances of finger forces/modes computed across repetitive trials was significantly higher than the variance of the total force/mode. Most variance of the individual finger force/mode changes between the preperturbation and postperturbation states was compatible with constant total force. We conclude that a transient perturbation applied to a redundant system leads to relatively small variance in the task-related performance variable (equifinality), whereas in the space of elemental variables much more variance occurs that does not lead to total force changes. We interpret the results within a general theoretical scheme that incorporates the ideas of hierarchically organized control, control with referent configurations, synergic control, and the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1965-1973
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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