Force synchrony enhances the stability of rhythmic multi-joint arm coordination

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Aug;213(1):117-24. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2781-1. Epub 2011 Jul 7.


Although rhythmic coordination has been extensively studied in the literature, questions remain about the correspondence of constraints that have been identified in the related contexts of inter-limb and intra-limb coordination. Here we used a 2-DOF robot arm which allows flexible manipulation of forces to investigate the effect on coordination stability of intra-limb coordination of: (i) the synchrony of force requirements and (ii) the involvement of bi-functional muscles. Ten subjects produced simultaneous rhythmic flexion-extension (FE) and supination-pronation (SP) elbow movements in two coordination patterns: (1) flexion synchronized with supination/extension with pronation (in-phase pattern) and (2) flexion synchronized with pronation/extension with supination (anti-phase pattern). The movements were produced with five different settings of the robot arm: a neutral setting that imposed balanced force requirements, and four other settings that increased the force requirements for one direction in both DOF. When combined with specific coordination patterns, these settings created conditions in which either synchronous or alternate patterns of forcing were necessary to perform the task. Results showed that synchronous tasks were more stable than asynchronous tasks (P < 0.05). Within the synchronous tasks, some robot settings were designed to either increase or decrease the use of bi-functional muscles. Although there was no difference for the bi-functional muscle biceps brachii, the coordination was more stable for the condition in which the greatest force requirements corresponded to the mechanical action of the bi-functional pronator teres (P < 0.05). In conclusion, force synchrony increases the stability of rhythmic intra-limb coordination, but further research is needed to clarify the role of bi-functional muscles in this effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Elbow Joint / physiology
  • Female
  • Hand Joints / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena*
  • Periodicity*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Robotics / methods
  • Supination / physiology
  • Young Adult