Physical principles for economies of skilled movements

Research paper by W. L. Nelson

Indexed on: 01 Feb '83Published on: 01 Feb '83Published in: Biological Cybernetics


This paper presents some elementary principles regarding constraints on movements, which may be useful in modeling and interpreting motor control strategies for skilled movements. Movements which are optimum with respect to various objectives, or “costs”, are analyzed and compared. The specific costs considered are related to movement time, distance, peak velocity, energy, peak acceleration, and rate of change of acceleration (jerk). The velocity patterns for the various minimum cost movements are compared with each other and with some skilled movement patterns. The concept of performance trade-offs between competing objectives is used to interpret the distance-time relationships observed in skilled movements. Examples of arm movements during violin bowing and jaw movements during speech are used to show how skilled movements are influenced by considerations of physical economy, or “ease”, of movement. Minimum-cost solutions for the various costs, which include the effect of frictional forces, are given in Appendices.