Influence of biomechanical factors on substructure of pointing movements

Natalia Dounskaia, Deric Wisleder, Travis Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Irregularities in the velocity profile near the end of pointing movements have been interpreted as corrective submovements whose purpose is to provide accuracy of pointing to the target. The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether two additional factors related to biomechanical properties of the arm also cause submovements. First, motion termination and stabilization of the limb in the final position required by a discrete pointing task may contribute to submovements. Second, inaccurate regulation of interactive torque at the joints may also cause submovements. To investigate the contributions of these two biomechanical factors and the traditionally considered factor of pointing accuracy, the incidence of submovements was analyzed during three types of experimental manipulations. In addition to target size manipulations (small and large targets), conditions for motion termination were manipulated by examining discrete movements (which terminated at the target) and reciprocal movements (which reversed direction without dwelling on the target). Interaction torques were varied by using targets that require different shoulder-elbow coordination patterns. Submovements were detected in 41% of all analyzed movements. Data supported influences from the accuracy and motion termination factors but not from the interactive torque regulation factor on submovement incidence. Gross submovements were associated with motion termination; fine submovements primarily with accuracy demands. These findings and the analysis of temporal movement characteristics suggest that motion termination is an extra movement component that makes control of discrete movements different to control of reciprocal movements. Implications of the findings to a noise-related interpretation of Fitts' law are discussed. The study emphasizes the influence of arm biomechanics on endpoint kinematics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-516
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Accuracy
  • Arm kinematics
  • Discrete
  • Fitts' law
  • Noise
  • Rhythmic
  • Velocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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