A common aspect of individuality is our subjective preferences in evaluation of reward and effort. The neural circuits that evaluate these commodities influence circuits that control our movements, raising the possibility that vigor differences between individuals may also be a trait of individuality, reflecting a willingness to expend effort. In contrast, classic theories in motor control suggest that vigor differences reflect a speed-accuracy trade-off, predicting that those who move fast are sacrificing accuracy for speed. Here we tested these contrasting hypotheses. We measured motion of the eyes, head, and arm in healthy humans during various elementary movements (saccades, head-free gaze shifts, and reaching). For each person we characterized their vigor, i.e., the speed with which they moved a body part (peak velocity) with respect to the population mean. Some moved with low vigor, while others moved with high vigor. Those with high vigor tended to react sooner to a visual stimulus, moving both their eyes and arm with a shorter reaction time. Arm and head vigor were tightly linked: individuals who moved their head with high vigor also moved their arm with high vigor. However, eye vigor did not correspond strongly with arm or head vigor. In all modalities, vigor had no impact on end-point accuracy, demonstrating that differences in vigor were not due to a speed-accuracy trade-off. Our results suggest that movement vigor may be a trait of individuality, not reflecting a willingness to accept inaccuracy but demonstrating a propensity to expend effort. NEW & NOTEWORTHY A common aspect of individuality is how we evaluate economic variables like reward and effort. This valuation affects not only decision making but also motor control, raising the possibility that vigor may be distinct between individuals but conserved across movements within an individual. Here we report conservation of vigor across elementary skeletal movements, but not eye movements, raising the possibility that the individuality of our movements may be driven by a common neural mechanism of effort evaluation across modalities of skeletal motor control.
Keywords: basal ganglia; effort; movement vigor; reward; speed-accuracy trade-off.