Drawing sequences of segments in 3D: Kinetic influences on arm configuration

Mary D Klein Breteler, Jan M. Hondzinski, Martha Flanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Complex movements are generally thought to consist of a series of simpler elements. If this is so, how does the sensorimotor system assemble the pieces? This study recorded and evaluated sequences of arm movements to various targets placed in three-dimensional (3D) space. Subjects performed sequences consisting of single, double, or triple segments with the same first target but with different second targets. The data analysis focused on the first movement segment and evaluated hand path curvature, the hand's final approach to the first target, and the whole arm postures at the beginning and end. Although some idiosyncratic differences in approach were observed, only the final arm posture depended, in a consistent way, on which particular movement was to follow as the second segment. This provided evidence for "coarticulation" of the two segments, only at the level of arm posture, and simulations revealed that this anticipatory modification improved the energetic efficiency of the second segment. Data from movements through five consecutive triple segments (i.e., 5 triangles) were assessed to determine whether kinematic constraints, such as Donders' law, apply to repetitive drawing movements. Although such constraints could prevent the accumulation of changes in arm posture, this was not observed. Instead, in most cases, the elbow was a little bit higher at the end of each triangle than at the beginning. Taken together, the results suggest that coarticulation may facilitate the joining of two segments and the efficiency of the second movement, but does not extend over the drawing of several segments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3253-3263
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003

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