Predictability and Robustness in the Manipulation of Dynamically Complex Objects [chapter]

Dagmar Sternad, Christopher J. Hasson
2016 Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology  
Manipulation of complex objects and tools is a hallmark of many activities of daily living, but how the human neuromotor control system interacts with such objects is not well understood. Even the seemingly simple task of transporting a cup of coffee without spilling creates complex interaction forces that humans need to compensate for. Predicting the behavior of an underactuated object with nonlinear fluid dynamics based on an internal model appears daunting. Hence, this research tests the
more » ... thesis that humans learn strategies that make interactions predictable and robust to inaccuracies in neural representations of object dynamics. The task of moving a cup of coffee is modeled with a cart-and-pendulum system that is rendered in a virtual environment, where subjects interact with a virtual cup with a rolling ball inside using a robotic manipulandum. To gain insight into human control strategies, we operationalize predictability and robustness to permit quantitative theory-based assessment. Predictability is quantified by the mutual information between the applied force and the object dynamics; robustness is quantified by the energy margin away from failure. Three studies are reviewed that show how with practice subjects develop movement strategies that are predictable and robust. Alternative criteria, common for free movement, such as maximization of smoothness and minimization of force, do not account for the observed data. As manual dexterity is compromised in many individuals with neurological disorders, the experimental paradigm and its analyses are a promising platform to gain insights into neurological diseases, such as dystonia and multiple sclerosis, as well as healthy aging.
doi:10.1007/978-3-319-47313-0_4 pmid:28035560 pmcid:PMC5516908 fatcat:vcljgzw2srhtnailhioho3qqxq