A preferred pattern of joint coordination during arm movements with redundant degrees of freedom

Natalia Dounskaia, Wanyue Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Redundancy of degrees of freedom (DOFs) during natural human movements is a central problem of motor control research. This study tests a novel interpretation that during arm movements, the DOF redundancy is used to support a preferred, simplified joint control pattern that consists of rotating either the shoulder or elbow actively and the other (trailing) joint predominantly passively by interaction and gravitational torques. We previously revealed the preference for this control pattern during nonredundant horizontal arm movements. Here, we studied whether this preference persists during movements with redundant DOFs and the redundancy is used to enlarge the range of directions in which this control pattern can be utilized. A free-stroke drawing task was performed that involved production of series of horizontal center-out strokes in randomly selected directions. Two conditions were used, with the arm's joints unconstrained (U) and constrained (C) to the horizontal plane. In both conditions, directional preferences were revealed and the simplified control pattern was used in the preferred and not in nonpreferred directions. The directional preferences were weaker and the range of preferred directions was wider in the U condition, with higher percentage of strokes performed with the simplified control pattern. This advantage was related to the usage of additional DOFs. We discuss that the simplified pattern may represent a feedforward control strategy that reduces the challenge of joint coordination caused by signal-dependent noise during movement execution. The results suggest a possibility that the simplified pattern is used during the majority of natural, seemingly complex arm movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1040-1053
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • 3D arm movements
  • Coordination
  • Interaction torque
  • Multijoint
  • Neural control of movements
  • Optimal control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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