The effect of movement direction on joint torque covariation

Jonathan Shemmell*, Ziaul Hasan, Gerald L. Gottlieb, Daniel M. Corcos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


It has been proposed that unconstrained upper limb movements are coordinated via a kinetic constraint that produces dynamic muscle torques at each moving joint that are a linear function of a single torque command. This constraint has been termed linear synergy (Gottlieb et al. J Neurophysiol 75:1760-1764, 1996). The current study tested two hypotheses: (1) that the extent of covariation between dynamic muscle torques at the shoulder and elbow varied with the direction of movement and (2) that the extent to which muscle torques deviated from linear synergy would be reproduced by a simulation of pointing movements in which the path of the hand was constrained to be straight. Dynamic muscle torques were calculated from sagittal plane pointing movements performed by 12 participants to targets in eight different directions. The results of principal component analyses performed on the muscle torque data demonstrated direction-dependent variation in the extent to which dynamic muscle torques covaried at the shoulder and elbow. Linear synergy was deviated from substantially in movement directions for which the magnitude of muscle torque was low at one joint. A simulation of movements with straight hand paths was able to accurately estimate the amount of covariation between muscle torques at the two joints in many directions. These results support the idea that a kinematic constraint is imposed by the central nervous system during unconstrained pointing movements. Linear synergy may also be applied as a coordinating constraint in circumstances where its application allows the path of the moving endpoint to remain close to a straight line.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-158
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Mechanics
  • Movement
  • Principal component analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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