Adjustments in end-effector trajectory and underlying joint angle synergies after a target switch: Order of adjustment is flexible

Maureen B G Wissing, Laura Golenia, Joanne Smith, Raoul M Bongers*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Abstract

    Goal-directed reaching adapts to meet changing task requirements after unexpected perturbations such as a sudden switch of target location. Literature on adaptive behavior using a target switch has primarily focused on adjustments of the end-effector trajectory, addressing proposed feedback and feedforward processes in planning adjusted actions. Starting from a dynamical systems approach to motor coordination, the current paper focusses on coordination of joint angles after a target switch, which has received little attention in the literature. We argue that joint angles are coordinated in synergies, temporary task-specific units emerging from interactions amongst task, organism, and environmental constraints. We asked whether after a target switch: i) joint angles were coordinated in synergies, ii) joint angles were coordinated in a different synergy than the synergy used when moving to the original target, and iii) synergies or end-effector trajectory was adjusted first. Participants (N = 12) performed manual reaching movements toward a target on a table (stationary target trials), where in some trials the target could unexpectedly switch to a new location (switch trials). Results showed that the end-effector curved to the switched target. Joint angles were synergistically organized as shown by the large extent of co-variation based on Uncontrolled Manifold analyses. At the end of the target switch movement, joint angle configurations differed from the joint angle configurations used to move to the original stationary target. Hence, we argue, a new synergy emerged after the target switch. The order of adjustment in the synergies and in the end-effector was flexible within participants, though most often synergies were adjusted first. These findings support the two-step framework of Kay (1988) to understand the coordination of abundant degrees of freedom and to explain adaptive actions. The flexibility in the order of adjustments of synergies suggests that the coordination of DOF emerges from self-organization.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0238561
    Number of pages13
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume15
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

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