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Movements are inherently variable. When we move to a particular point in space, a cloud of final limb positions is observed around the target. Previously we noted that patterns of variability at the end of movement to a circular target were not circular, but instead reflected patterns of limb stiffness-in directions where limb stiffness was high, variability in end position was low, and vice versa. Here we examine the determinants of variability at movement end in more detail. To do this, we have subjects move the handle of a robotic device from different starting positions into a circular target. We use position servocontrolled displacements of the robot's handle to measure limb stiffness at the end of movement and we also record patterns of end position variability. To examine the effect of change in posture on movement variability, we use a visual motor transformation in which we change the limb configuration and also the actual movement target, while holding constant the visual display. We find that, regardless of movement direction, patterns of variability at the end of movement vary systematically with limb configuration and are also related to patterns of limb stiffness, which are likewise configuration dependent. The result suggests that postural configuration determines the base level of movement variability, on top of which control mechanisms can act to further alter variability.

Original publication




Journal article


J neurophysiol

Publication Date





1061 - 1067


Adolescent, Adult, Biomechanical Phenomena, Extremities, Female, Humans, Male, Movement, Photic Stimulation, Posture, Psychomotor Performance, Young Adult