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Exp Brain Res. 2014 Apr;232(4):1173-84. doi: 10.1007/s00221-014-3826-z. Epub 2014 Jan 31.

Torque response to external perturbation during unconstrained goal-directed arm movements.

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Department of Neurology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit├Ąt, Munich, Germany,


It is unclear to what extent control strategies of 2D reaching movements of the upper limbs also apply to movements with the full seven degrees of freedom (DoFs) including rotation of the forearm. An increase in DoFs may result in increased movement complexity and instability. This study investigates the trajectories of unconstrained reaching movements and their stability against perturbations of the upper arm. Reaching movements were measured using an ultrasound marker system, and the method of inverse dynamics was applied to compute the time courses of joint torques. In full DoF reaching movements, the velocity of some joint angles showed multiple peaks, while the bell-shaped profile of the tangential hand velocity was preserved. This result supports previous evidence that tangential hand velocity is an essential part of the movement plan. Further, torque responses elicited by external perturbation started shortly after perturbation, almost simultaneously with the perturbation-induced displacement of the arm, and were mainly observed in the same joint angles as the perturbation torques, with similar shapes but opposite signs. These results indicate that these torque responses were compensatory and contributed to system stabilization.

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