The present study extends our previous findings in challenging the traditional interpretation of irregularities in the velocity profile of pointing movements as corrective submovements performed to improve accuracy of target achievement. The study is driven by a hypothesis that pointing includes at least two subtasks, accurate target achievement and motion termination, each of which can cause submovements (Dounskaia et al. Exp Brain Res 164:505-516, 2005). To investigate submovements associated with these subtasks, two tasks were performed in the experiment. Task 1 was used to examine the contribution of the two subtasks on submovement production by comparing submovements in discrete movements that include motion termination and in cyclic movements during which motion termination is not performed. Target size manipulations emphasized submovements related to the accuracy subtask. The results confirmed that both subtasks included in pointing cause submovements. Gross types of submovements (types 1 and 2) were associated with motion termination and fine submovements (type 3) with accuracy regulation. Task 2 further investigated sources of the accuracy-associated type 3 submovements by including only cyclic movements performed at two levels of frequency. Most (97.6%) of the submovements in task 2 were of type 3. Submovement incidence was strongly (inversely) associated with cyclic frequency, and it was independent of target size. This result questions the accuracy subtask as a primary source for type 3 submovements, and it raises the possibility that these submovements are an inherent property of low-speed movements. Together, results of the two tasks support our previous finding that gross submovements are not necessarily related to accuracy regulation. They also provide evidence that challenges the interpretation of fine submovements as corrections performed voluntarily to improve pointing accuracy. Alternative interpretations of accuracy regulation mechanisms, such as regulation of muscle stiffness and of the muscle co-contraction level are discussed in light of the present results.
- Arm kinematics
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