Different investigators have proposed that multi-joint arm movements are planned with respect to either the path of the hand or the forces and torques acting about the moving joints. In this experiment, we examined the kinematic and kinetic response of the motor system when a load was applied to the forearm, which reduced the natural anisotropy of the arm. We asked two questions: (1) when the movement path changes upon the introduction of the novel load, do muscle torques at the shoulder and elbow remain the same as they were before the load was applied? and (2) when the path is restored partially as the novel load is learned, do changes in muscle torque occur preferentially at one or the other joint? Participants performed rapid arm movements to a target with and without the novel load attached to their arm. Changes in hand path and muscle torque profiles were examined immediately after the application of the load and again following 30 practice trials. The introduction of the load increased the curvature of hand paths for each participant and resulted in changes in the magnitude and time course of muscle torque at both joints, although to a greater extent at the shoulder. After practice with the load, hand paths and elbow muscle torques resembled those produced with no load. Muscle torques produced at the shoulder, however, did not return to pre-load patterns. These observations provide support for the idea that movements are initiated by planned muscle torques and that as the movement proceeds muscle torques are regulated in order to produce hand paths that conform approximately to a kinematic plan.
- Movement control
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