Motor variability within a multi-effector system: Experimental and analytical studies of multi-finger production of quick force pulses

Simon R. Goodman, Jae Kun Shim, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Mark L. Latash

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43 Scopus citations


The purpose of the study was to develop a model of force variability for a fast action performed by a multi-effector system and to verify it for multi-finger quick force production. The experiments involved quick isometric contractions to different target force levels using different finger combinations. Force variance calculated over sets of trials for a multi-finger force production task showed non-monotonic single-peak profiles of force variance with a peak at a time between the times of the maxima of the force rate and of the total force. When analyzed in the four-dimensional space of finger forces, the variance peak was mostly expressed in the direction of the force rate, and was absent in the directions orthogonal to it. The non-monotonic time profile of the force variance could be reproduced by a model of force production, which assumes that each finger force profile is based on a template function scaled in duration and magnitude with two parameters assigned prior to each trial with some variability. The model allows decomposition of the force variance into two fractions related to variability in setting the magnitude and duration scaling parameters. The former fraction changes monotonically with time, while the latter shows a transient peak in the middle of the action. The model was able to reproduce experimental variance time profiles across conditions with the total error of under 8%. The results demonstrate, in particular, that fast multi-finger actions may show transient changes in motor variability in certain directions of the finger force space, particularly in the direction of the first force derivative, without any task-specific coordinating action by the controller. These findings require a reconsideration of some of the conclusions drawn in recent studies on the structure of motor variability in redundant multi-effector systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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