Computational motor control: redundancy and invariance

J Neurophysiol. 2007 Jan;97(1):331-47. doi: 10.1152/jn.00290.2006. Epub 2006 Sep 27.


The nervous system controls the behavior of complex kinematically redundant biomechanical systems. How it computes appropriate commands to generate movements is unknown. Here we propose a model based on the assumption that the nervous system: 1) processes static (e.g., gravitational) and dynamic (e.g., inertial) forces separately; 2) calculates appropriate dynamic controls to master the dynamic forces and progress toward the goal according to principles of optimal feedback control; 3) uses the size of the dynamic commands (effort) as an optimality criterion; and 4) can specify movement duration from a given level of effort. The model was used to control kinematic chains with 2, 4, and 7 degrees of freedom [planar shoulder/elbow, three-dimensional (3D) shoulder/elbow, 3D shoulder/elbow/wrist] actuated by pairs of antagonist muscles. The muscles were modeled as second-order nonlinear filters and received the dynamics commands as inputs. Simulations showed that the model can quantitatively reproduce characteristic features of pointing and grasping movements in 3D space, i.e., trajectory, velocity profile, and final posture. Furthermore, it accounted for amplitude/duration scaling and kinematic invariance for distance and load. These results suggest that motor control could be explained in terms of a limited set of computational principles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology