Movement Variability and Coordination

Successful motor behavior requires the efficient and flexible coordination of multiple degrees (e.g., muscles and joints) of the body. A major line of research concerns motor-equivalent coordination, that is, the exploitation of degrees of freedom for achieving equivalent task outcomes despite variability in execution. Age-comparative studies in our lab found older adults to show reduced motor-equivalent coordination in a manual pointing task as well as specific aspects of walking. Contributions were also made through empirical research with young adults, examining coordination during walking and quiet standing, as well as methodological work.

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We also investigated the effect of specific sensorimotor expertise on multiple degrees of freedom coordination in two studies on cello bowing (see video above). By comparing advanced or professional cello players to novices, we showed that skilled cello bowing is characterized by the recruitment of distal degrees of freedom during continuous bow movements and temporally differentiated coordination of the arm at bow reversals.

Current studies extend our work on adult age-related differences, addressing in particular the effects of normal aging on the temporal and motor-equivalent structure of movement variability. In addition, we are starting to investigate early developmental changes in movement coordination during locomotion (e.g., crawling or walking).

Key References

Verrel, J., Lövdén, M., & Lindenberger, U. (2012a). Normal aging reduces motor synergies in manual pointing. Neurobiology of Aging, 33, 200.e1–200.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2010.07. 006

Verrel, J., Lövdén, M., & Lindenberger, U. (2012b). Older adults show preserved equilibrium and impaired step length control in motor-equivalent stabilization of gait. PLoS ONE, 7(12): e52024. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone. 0052024

Verrel, J., Pologe, S., Manselle, W., Lindenberger, U., & Woollacott, M. (2013a). Coordination of degrees of freedom and stabilization of task variables in a complex motor skill: Expertise-related differences in cello bowing. Experimental Brain Research, 224, 323–334. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3314-2

Verrel, J., Pologe, S., Manselle, W., Lindenberger, U., & Woollacott, M. (2013b). Exploiting biomechanical degrees of freedom for fast and accurate changes in movement direction: Coordination underlying quick bow reversals during continuous cello bowing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7: 157. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013. 00157

Verrel, J., Woollacott, M. H., & Lindenberger, U. (2014). Articulated coordination of the right arm underlies control of bow parameters and quick bow reversals in skilled cello bowing. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:885. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00885