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J Neurophysiol. 2010 Dec;104(6):2985-94. doi: 10.1152/jn.00483.2010. Epub 2010 Sep 8.

The central nervous system does not minimize energy cost in arm movements.

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University of Western Ontario, Social Science Centre, London, ON, Canada N6G 3A9.


It has been widely suggested that the many degrees of freedom of the musculoskeletal system may be exploited by the CNS to minimize energy cost. We tested this idea by having subjects making point-to-point movements while grasping a robotic manipulandum. The robot created a force field chosen such that the minimal energy hand path for reaching movements differed substantially from those observed in a null field. The results show that after extended exposure to the force field, subjects continued to move exactly as they did in the null field and thus used substantially more energy than needed. Even after practicing to move along the minimal energy path, subjects did not adapt their freely chosen hand paths to reduce energy expenditure. The results of this study indicate that for point-to-point arm movements minimization of energy cost is not a dominant factor that influences how the CNS arrives at kinematics and associated muscle activation patterns.

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