Indexed on: 19 Jul '11Published on: 19 Jul '11Published in: PloS one
The present study investigates how the CNS deals with the omnipresent force of gravity during arm motor planning. Previous studies have reported direction-dependent kinematic differences in the vertical plane; notably, acceleration duration was greater during a downward than an upward arm movement. Although the analysis of acceleration and deceleration phases has permitted to explore the integration of gravity force, further investigation is necessary to conclude whether feedforward or feedback control processes are at the origin of this incorporation. We considered that a more detailed analysis of the temporal features of vertical arm movements could provide additional information about gravity force integration into the motor planning. Eight subjects performed single joint vertical arm movements (45° rotation around the shoulder joint) in two opposite directions (upwards and downwards) and at three different speeds (slow, natural and fast). We calculated different parameters of hand acceleration profiles: movement duration (MD), duration to peak acceleration (D PA), duration from peak acceleration to peak velocity (D PA-PV), duration from peak velocity to peak deceleration (D PV-PD), duration from peak deceleration to the movement end (D PD-End), acceleration duration (AD), deceleration duration (DD), peak acceleration (PA), peak velocity (PV), and peak deceleration (PD). While movement durations and amplitudes were similar for upward and downward movements, the temporal structure of acceleration profiles differed between the two directions. More specifically, subjects performed upward movements faster than downward movements; these direction-dependent asymmetries appeared early in the movement (i.e., before PA) and lasted until the moment of PD. Additionally, PA and PV were greater for upward than downward movements. Movement speed also changed the temporal structure of acceleration profiles. The effect of speed and direction on the form of acceleration profiles is consistent with the premise that the CNS optimises motor commands with respect to both gravitational and inertial constraints.