Intermediate motor learning as decreasing active (dynamical) degrees of freedom

Suvobrata Mitra, Polemnia G. Amazeen, M. T. Turvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


A classical view is that motor learning has distinguishable early, intermediate, and late phases. A recent view is that motor learning is the acquisition of an abstract equation of motion that specifies the time evolution of a pattern of coordination. The pattern is expressed by a collective variable that enslaves or orders component subsystems that, in turn, act on and generate the collective variable. In these latter terms, early learning resolves the collective variable and its motion equation, intermediate learning stabilizes and standardizes the subsystems or active degrees of freedom (DFs) producing the collective variable's dynamics. The preceding ideas, and the phase-space reconstruction methods required to determine active DFs, are developed in tutorial fashion in the context of an experimental investigation of learning a bimanual rhythmic coordination. Results show that intermediate learning reduces the dimensionality of the learned coordination's dynamics and renders those dynamics more deterministic. The tutorial development relates the preceding concepts, results and methods of analyses to (a) the contrast between Poincaréan and Newtonian dynamics, (b) contemporary interpretations of random processes, (c) definitions of DFs in respect to Bernstein's problem, (d) the potential contribution of chaos to the adaptability of a learned coordination, and (e) possible links between active (dynamical) DFs and the control variables r, c, and μ identified by the λ hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-65
Number of pages49
JournalHuman Movement Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Chaos
  • Coordination dynamics
  • Coordinative structures
  • Degrees of freedom problem
  • Dynamical systems
  • Equilibrium point hypothesis
  • Learning
  • Phase-space reconstruction
  • Skill acquisition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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