Spatio-temporal analysis reveals active control of both task-relevant and task-irrelevant variables

Kornelius Rácz, Francisco J. Valero-Cuevas
2013 Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience  
The Uncontrolled Manifold (UCM) hypothesis and Minimal Intervention principle propose that the observed differential variability across task relevant (i.e., task goals) vs. irrelevant (i.e., in the null space of those goals) variables is evidence of a separation of task variables for efficient neural control, ranked by their respective variabilities (sometimes referred to as hierarchy of control). Support for this comes from spatial domain analyses (i.e., structure of) of kinematic, kinetic,
more » ... EMG variability. While proponents admit the possibility of preferential as opposed to strictly uncontrolled variables, such distinctions have only begun to be quantified or considered in the temporal domain when inferring control action. Here we extend the study of task variability during tripod static grasp to the temporal domain by applying diffusion analysis. We show that both task-relevant and task-irrelevant parameters show corrective action at some time scales; and conversely, that task-relevant parameters do not show corrective action at other time scales. That is, the spatial fluctuations of fingertip forces show, as expected, greater ranges of variability in task-irrelevant variables (>98% associated with changes in total grasp force; vs. only <2% in task-relevant changes associated with acceleration of the object). But at some time scales, however, temporal fluctuations of task-irrelevant variables exhibit negative correlations clearly indicative of corrective action (scaling exponents <0.5); and temporal fluctuations of task-relevant variables exhibit neutral and positive correlations clearly indicative of absence of corrective action (scaling exponents ≥0.5). In agreement with recent work in other behavioral contexts, these results propose we revise our understanding of variability vis-á-vis task relevance by considering both spatial and temporal features of all task variables when inferring control action and understanding how the CNS confronts task redundancy. Instead of a dichotomy of presence vs. absence of control, we should speak of a continuum of weaker to stronger-and potentially different-control strategies in specific spatiotemporal domains, indicated here by the magnitude of deviation from the 0.5 scaling exponent. Moreover, these results are counter examples to the UCM hypothesis and the Minimal Intervention principle, and the similar nature of control actions across time scales in both task-relevant and task-irrelevant spaces points to a level of modularity not previously recognized.
doi:10.3389/fncom.2013.00155 pmid:24312045 pmcid:PMC3826108 fatcat:it4x2w2vkbhvpcn756l3gxkwp4