Multi-joint limbs permit a flexible response to unpredictable events

E. M. Robertson*, R. C. Miall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The human arm is kinematically redundant, which may allow flexibility in the execution of reaching movements. We have compared reaching movements with and without kinematic redundancy to unpredictable double-step targets. Subjects sat in front of a digitising tablet and were able to view an are of four targets reflected in the mirror as virtual images in the plane of the tablet. They were instructed to move, from a central starting point, in as straight a line as possible to a target. In one-third of trials, the target light switched to one of its neighbours during the movement. Subjects made 60 movements using shoulder, elbow and wrist and then another 60 movements in which only shoulder and elbow movement were allowed. By restraining the wrist, the limb was made non-redundant. The path length was calculated for each movement. In single-step trials, there was no significant difference between path lengths performed with and without wrist restraint. As expected there was a significant increase in path length during double-step trials. Moreover this increase was significantly greater when the wrist was restrained. The variability across both single- and double-step movements was significantly less while the wrist was restrained. Importantly the performance time of the movements did not alter significantly for single-step, double-step or restrained movements. These results suggest that the nervous system exploits the intrinsic redundancy of the limb when controlling voluntary movements and is therefore more effective at reprogramming movements to double-step targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-152
Number of pages5
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 1997


  • Double-step stimulation
  • Human
  • Inverse kinematics
  • On-line control
  • Pointing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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