Kinematic invariants during cyclical arm movements

Natalia Dounskaia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


It has been observed that the motion of the arm end-point (the hand, fingertip or the tip of a pen) is characterized by a number of regularities (kinematic invariants). Trajectory is usually straight, and the velocity profile has a bell shape during point-to-point movements. During drawing movements, a two-thirds power law predicts the dependence of the end-point velocity on the trajectory curvature. Although various principles of movement organization have been discussed as possible origins of these kinematic invariants, the nature of these movement trajectory characteristics remains an open question. A kinematic model of cyclical arm movements derived in the present study analytically demonstrates that all three kinematic invariants can be predicted from a two-joint approximation of the kinematic structure of the arm and from sinusoidal joint motions. With this approach, explicit expressions for two kinematic invariants, the two-thirds power law during drawing movements and the velocity profile during point-to-point movements are obtained as functions of arm segment lengths and joint motion parameters. Additionally, less recognized kinematic invariants are also derived from the model. The obtained analytical expressions are further validated with experimental data. The high accuracy of the predictions confirms practical utility of the model, showing that the model is relevant to human performance over a wide range of movements. The results create a basis for the consolidation of various existing interpretations of kinematic invariants. In particular, optimal control is discussed as a plausible source of invariant characteristics of joint motions and movement trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-163
Number of pages17
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Arm movement
  • Curvature
  • Kinematics
  • Power law
  • Trajectory
  • Velocity profile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Computer Science(all)


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