Variance components in discrete force production tasks

Varadhan Skm, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Mark L. Latash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The study addresses the relationships between task parameters and two components of variance, "good" and "bad", during multi-finger accurate force production. The variance components are defined in the space of commands to the fingers (finger modes) and refer to variance that does ("bad") and does not ("good") affect total force. Based on an earlier study of cyclic force production, we hypothesized that speeding-up an accurate force production task would be accompanied by a drop in the regression coefficient linking the "bad" variance and force rate such that variance of the total force remains largely unaffected. We also explored changes in parameters of anticipatory synergy adjustments with speeding-up the task. The subjects produced accurate ramps of total force over different times and in different directions (force-up and force-down) while pressing with the four fingers of the right hand on individual force sensors. The two variance components were quantified, and their normalized difference was used as an index of a total force stabilizing synergy. "Good" variance scaled linearly with force magnitude and did not depend on force rate. "Bad" variance scaled linearly with force rate within each task, and the scaling coefficient did not change across tasks with different ramp times. As a result, a drop in force ramp time was associated with an increase in total force variance, unlike the results of the study of cyclic tasks. The synergy index dropped 100-200 ms prior to the first visible signs of force change. The timing and magnitude of these anticipatory synergy adjustments did not depend on the ramp time. Analysis of the data within an earlier model has shown adjustments in the variance of a timing parameter, although these adjustments were not as pronounced as in the earlier study of cyclic force production. Overall, we observed qualitative differences between the discrete and cyclic force production tasks: Speeding-up the cyclic tasks was associated with better adjustments of the timing accuracy, which helps achieve comparable force variance in tasks with different rates of force production. This does not happen in discrete tasks. The lack of scaling of the anticipatory changes in the synergy index with ramp time is the first reported feature that distinguishes anticipatory synergy adjustments from anticipatory postural adjustments. We discuss the differences between the cyclic and discrete tasks within a hierarchical control scheme offered by Schöner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-349
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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