Motor coordination: when two have to act as one

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Jun;211(3-4):631-41. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2642-y. Epub 2011 Apr 1.


Trying to pass someone walking toward you in a narrow corridor is a familiar example of a two-person motor game that requires coordination. In this study, we investigate coordination in sensorimotor tasks that correspond to classic coordination games with multiple Nash equilibria, such as "choosing sides," "stag hunt," "chicken," and "battle of sexes". In these tasks, subjects made reaching movements reflecting their continuously evolving "decisions" while they received a continuous payoff in the form of a resistive force counteracting their movements. Successful coordination required two subjects to "choose" the same Nash equilibrium in this force-payoff landscape within a single reach. We found that on the majority of trials coordination was achieved. Compared to the proportion of trials in which miscoordination occurred, successful coordination was characterized by several distinct features: an increased mutual information between the players' movement endpoints, an increased joint entropy during the movements, and by differences in the timing of the players' responses. Moreover, we found that the probability of successful coordination depends on the players' initial distance from the Nash equilibria. Our results suggest that two-person coordination arises naturally in motor interactions and is facilitated by favorable initial positions, stereotypical motor pattern, and differences in response times.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*