Proportional myoelectric control of a virtual object to investigate human efferent control

Keith E. Gordon*, Daniel P. Ferris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We used proportional myoelectric control of a one-dimensional virtual object to investigate differences in efferent control between the proximal and distal muscles of the upper limbs. Eleven subjects placed one of their upper limbs in a brace that restricted movement while we recorded electromyography (EMG) signals from elbow flexors/extensors or wrist flexors/extensors during isometric contractions. By activating their muscles, subjects applied virtual forces to a virtual object using a real-time computer interface. The magnitudes of these forces were proportional to EMG amplitudes. Subjects used this proportional EMG control to move the virtual object through two tracking tasks, one with a static target and one with a moving target (i.e., a sine wave). We hypothesized that subjects would have better control over the virtual object using their distal muscles rather than using their proximal muscles because humans typically use more distal joints to perform fine motor tasks. The results indicated that there was no difference in subjects' ability to control virtual object movements when using either upper arm muscles or forearm muscles. These results suggest that differences in control accuracy between elbow joint movements and wrist joint movements are more likely to be a result of motor practice, proprioceptive feedback or joint mechanics rather than inherent differences in efferent control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-486
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Electromyography
  • Human-computer interface
  • Motor control
  • Motor learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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