How variability and effort determine coordination at large forces

Michalis Kolossiatis, Themistoklis Charalambous, Etienne Burdet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Motor control is a challenging task for the central nervous system, since it involves redundant degrees of freedom, nonlinear dynamics of actuators and limbs, as well as noise. When an action is carried out, which factors does your nervous system consider to determine the appropriate set of muscle forces between redundant degrees-of-freedom? Important factors determining motor output likely encompass effort and the resulting motor noise. However, the tasks used in many previous motor control studies could not identify these two factors uniquely, as signal-dependent noise monotonically increases as a function of the effort. To address this, a recent paper introduced a force control paradigm involving one finger in each hand that can disambiguate these two factors. It showed that the central nervous system considers both force noise and amplitude, with a larger weight on the absolute force and lower weights on both noise and normalized force. While these results are valid for the relatively low force range considered in that paper, the magnitude of the force shared between the fingers for large forces is not known. This paper investigates this question experimentally, and develops an appropriate Markov chain Monte Carlo method in order to estimate the weightings given to these factors. Our results demonstrate that the force sharing strongly depends on the force level required, so that for higher force levels the normalized force is considered as much as the absolute force, whereas the role of noise minimization becomes negligible.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0149512
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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