Rhythmic movements, like walking, chewing, or scratching, are phylogenetically old mo-tor behaviors found in many organisms, ranging from insects to primates. In contrast, discrete movements, like reaching, grasping, or kicking, are behaviors that have reached sophistication primarily in younger species, particularly in primates. Neurophysiological and computational research on arm motor control has focused almost exclusively on dis-crete movements, essentially assuming similar neural circuitry for rhythmic tasks. In con-trast, many behavioral studies focused on rhythmic models, subsuming discrete move-ment as a special case. Here, using a human functional neuroimaging experiment, we show that in addition to areas activated in rhythmic movement, discrete movement in-volves several higher cortical planning areas, despite both movement conditions were confined to the same single wrist joint. These results provide the first neuroscientific evi-dence that rhythmic arm movement cannot be part of a more general discrete movement system, and may require separate neurophysiological and theoretical treatment.
The 2/3 power law, the nonlinear relationship between tangential velocity and radius of curvature of the endeffector trajectory, has been suggested as a fundamental constraint of the central nervous system in the formation of rhythmic endpoint trajectories. However, studies on the 2/3 power law have largely been confined to planar drawing patterns of relatively small size. With the hypothesis that this strategy overlooks nonlinear effects that are constitutive in movement generation, the present experiments tested the validity of the power law in elliptical patterns which were not confined to a planar surface and which were performed by the unconstrained 7-DOF arm with significant variations in pattern size and workspace orientation. Data were recorded from five human subjects where the seven joint angles and the endpoint trajectories were analyzed. Additionally, an anthropomorphic 7-DOF robot arm served as a "control subject" whose endpoint trajectories were generated on the basis of the human joint angle data, modeled as simple harmonic oscillations. Analyses of the endpoint trajectories demonstrate that the power law is systematically violated with increasing pattern size, in both exponent and the goodness of fit. The origins of these violations can be explained analytically based on smooth rhythmic trajectory formation and the kinematic structure of the human arm. We conclude that in unconstrained rhythmic movements, the power law seems to be a by-product of a movement system that favors smooth trajectories, and that it is unlikely to serve as a primary movement generating principle. Our data rather suggests that subjects employed smooth oscillatory pattern generators in joint space to realize the required movement patterns.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(5):1163-1184, 2001, clmc (article)
Rhythmically bouncing a ball with a racket was investigated and modeled with a nonlinear map. Model analyses provided a variable defining a dynamically stable solution that obviates computationally expensive corrections. Three experiments evaluated whether dynamic stability is optimized and what perceptual support is necessary for stable behavior. Two hypotheses were tested: (a) Performance is stable if racket acceleration is negative at impact, and (b) variability is lowest at an impact acceleration between -4 and -1 m/s2. In Experiment 1 participants performed the task, eyes open or closed, bouncing a ball confined to a 1-dimensional trajectory. Experiment 2 eliminated constraints on racket and ball trajectory. Experiment 3 excluded visual or haptic information. Movements were performed with negative racket accelerations in the range of highest stability. Performance with eyes closed was more variable, leaving acceleration unaffected. With haptic information, performance was more stable than with visual information alone.
In Sensor Fusion and Decentralized Control in Robotic Systems III, Proceedings of SPIE, 4196, pages: 30-40, Boston, MA, Nov.5-8, 2000, November 2000, clmc (inproceedings)
While biological principles have inspired researchers in computational and engineering research for a long time, there is still rather limited knowledge flow back from computational to biological domains. This paper presents examples of our work where research on anthropomorphic robots lead us to new insights into explaining biological movement phenomena, starting from behavioral studies up to brain imaging studies. Our research over the past years has focused on principles of trajectory formation with nonlinear dynamical systems, on learning internal models for nonlinear control, and on advanced topics like imitation learning. The formal and empirical analyses of the kinematics and dynamics of movements systems and the tasks that they need to perform lead us to suggest principles of motor control that later on we found surprisingly related to human behavior and even brain activity.
In Humanoids2000, First IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, CD-Proceedings, Cambridge, MA, September 2000, clmc (inproceedings)
This paper explores the idea to create complex human-like movements from movement primitives based on nonlinear attractor dynamics. Each degree-of-freedom of a limb is assumed to have two independent abilities to create movement, one through a discrete dynamic system, and one through a rhythmic system. The discrete system creates point-to-point movements based on internal or external target specifications. The rhythmic system can add an additional oscillatory movement relative to the current position of the discrete system. In the present study, we develop appropriate dynamic systems that can realize the above model, motivate the particular choice of the systems from a biological and engineering point of view, and present simulation results of the performance of such movement primitives. The model was implemented for a drumming task on a humanoid robot
Human Movement Science, 19(4):627-665, 2000, clmc (article)
The study investigates a single-joint movement task that combines a translatory and cyclic component with the objective to investigate the interaction of discrete and rhythmic movement elements. Participants performed an elbow movement in the horizontal plane, oscillating at a prescribed frequency around one target and shifting to a second target upon a trigger signal, without stopping the oscillation. Analyses focused on extracting the mutual influences of the rhythmic and the discrete component of the task. Major findings are: (1) The onset of the discrete movement was confined to a limited phase window in the rhythmic cycle. (2) Its duration was influenced by the period of oscillation. (3) The rhythmic oscillation was "perturbed" by the discrete movement as indicated by phase resetting. On the basis of these results we propose a model for the coordination of discrete and rhythmic actions (K. Matsuoka, Sustained oscillations generated by mutually inhibiting neurons with adaptations, Biological Cybernetics 52 (1985) 367-376; Mechanisms of frequency and pattern control in the neural rhythm generators, Biological Cybernetics 56 (1987) 345-353). For rhythmic movements an oscillatory pattern generator is developed following models of half-center oscillations (D. Bullock, S. Grossberg, The VITE model: a neural command circuit for generating arm and articulated trajectories, in: J.A.S. Kelso, A.J. Mandel, M. F. Shlesinger (Eds.), Dynamic Patterns in Complex Systems. World Scientific. Singapore. 1988. pp. 305-326). For discrete movements a point attractor dynamics is developed close to the VITE model For each joint degree of freedom both pattern generators co-exist but exert mutual inhibition onto each other. The suggested modeling framework provides a unified account for both discrete and rhythmic movements on the basis of neuronal circuitry. Simulation results demonstrated that the effects observed in human performance can be replicated using the two pattern generators with a mutually inhibiting coupling.
Physical Review E, 63(011902):1-8, 2000, clmc (article)
On the basis of a modified bouncing-ball model, we investigated whether human movements utilize principles of dynamic stability in their performance of a similar movement task. Stability analyses of the model provided predictions about conditions indicative of a dynamically stable period-one regime. In a series of experiments, human subjects bounced a ball rhythmically on a racket and displayed these conditions supporting that they attuned to and exploited the dynamic stability properties of the task.
While it is generally assumed that complex movements consist of a sequence of simpler units, the quest to define these units of action, or movement primitives, still remains an open question. In this context, two hypotheses of movement segmentation of endpoint trajectories in 3D human drawing movements are re-examined: (1) the stroke-based segmentation hypothesis based on the results that the proportionality coefficient of the 2/3 power law changes discontinuously with each new â??strokeâ?, and (2) the segmentation hypothesis inferred from the observation of piecewise planar endpoint trajectories of 3D drawing movements. In two experiments human subjects performed a set of elliptical and figure-8 patterns of different sizes and orientations using their whole arm in 3D. The kinematic characteristics of the endpoint trajectories and the seven joint angles of the arm were analyzed. While the endpoint trajectories produced similar segmentation features as reported in the literature, analyses of the joint angles show no obvious segmentation but rather continuous oscillatory patterns. By approximating the joint angle data of human subjects with sinusoidal trajectories, and by implementing this model on a 7-degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm, it is shown that such a continuous movement strategy can produce exactly the same features as observed by the above segmentation hypotheses. The origin of this apparent segmentation of endpoint trajectories is traced back to the nonlinear transformations of the forward kinematics of human arms. The presented results demonstrate that principles of discrete movement generation may not be reconciled with those of rhythmic movement as easily as has been previously suggested, while the generalization of nonlinear pattern generators to arm movements can offer an interesting alternative to approach the question of units of action.
In 3rd International Conference on Computational Intelligence in Neuroscience, pages: 48-51, Research Triangle Park, NC, Oct. 24-28, October 1998, clmc (inproceedings)
This paper explores the idea to create complex human-like arm movements from movement primitives based on nonlinear attractor dynamics. Each degree-of-freedom of an arm is assumed to have two independent abilities to create movement, one through a discrete dynamic system, and one through a rhythmic system. The discrete system creates point-to-point movements based on internal or external target specifications. The rhythmic system can add an additional oscillatory movement relative to the current position of the discrete system. In the present study, we develop appropriate dynamic systems that can realize the above model, motivate the particular choice of the systems from a biological and engineering point of view, and present simulation results of the performance of such movement primitives. Implementation results on a Sarcos Dexterous Arm are discussed.
Journal of Motor Behavior, 28(2):165-183, 1996, clmc (article)
The skill of rhythmic juggling a ball on a racket is investigated from the viewpoint of nonlinear dynamics. The difference equations that model the dynamical system are analyzed by means of local and non-local stability analyses. These analyses yield that the task dynamics offer an economical juggling pattern which is stable even for open-loop actuator motion. For this pattern, two types of pre dictions are extracted: (i) Stable periodic bouncing is sufficiently characterized by a negative acceleration of the racket at the moment of impact with the ball; (ii) A nonlinear scaling relation maps different juggling trajectories onto one topologically equivalent dynamical system. The relevance of these results for the human control of action was evaluated in an experiment where subjects performed a comparable task of juggling a ball on a paddle. Task manipulations involved different juggling heights and gravity conditions of the ball. The predictions were confirmed: (i) For stable rhythmic performance the paddle's acceleration at impact is negative and fluctuations of the impact acceleration follow predictions from global stability analysis; (ii) For each subject, the realizations of juggling for the different experimental conditions are related by the scaling relation. These results allow the conclusion that for the given task, humans reliably exploit the stable solutions inherent to the dynamics of the task and do not overrule these dynamics by other control mechanisms. The dynamical scaling serves as an efficient principle to generate different movement realizations from only a few parameter changes and is discussed as a dynamical formalization of the principle of motor equivalence.
In 1992 Lectures in Complex Systems, pages: 223-231, (Editors: Nadel, L.;Stein, D.), Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, CA, 1993, clmc (inbook)
In the population model presented, an evolutionary dynamic is explored which is based on the operator characteristics of genetic algorithms. An essential modification in the genetic algorithms is the inclusion of a constraint in the mixing of the gene pool. The pairing for the crossover is governed by a selection principle based on a complementarity criterion derived from the theoretical tenet of perception-action (P-A) mutuality of ecological psychology. According to Swenson and Turvey  P-A mutuality underlies evolution and is an integral part of its thermodynamics. The present simulation tested the contribution of P-A-cycles in evolutionary dynamics. A numerical experiment compares the population's evolution with and without this intentional component. The effect is measured in the difference of the rate of energy dissipation, as well as in three operationalized aspects of complexity. The results support the predicted increase in the rate of energy dissipation, paralleled by an increase in the average heterogeneity of the population. Furthermore, the spatio-temporal evolution of the system is tested for the characteristic power-law relations of a nonlinear system poised in a critical state. The frequency distribution of consecutive increases in population size shows a significantly different exponent in functional relationship.
In 1992 Lectures in complex systems, pages: 913-918, (Editors: Nadel, L.;Stein, D.), Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, CA, 1993, clmc (inbook)
This study investigates learning passive motor control strategies. Passive control is understood as control without active error correction; the movement is stabilized by particular properties of the controlling dynamics. We analyze the task of juggling a ball on a racket. An approximation to the optimal solution of the task is derived by means of optimization theory. In order to model the learning process, the problem is coded for a genetic algorithm in representations without sensory or with sensory information. For all representations the genetic algorithm is able to find passive control strategies, but learning speed and the quality of the outcome are significantly different. A comparison with data from human subjects shows that humans seem to apply yet different movement strategies to the ones proposed. For the feedback representation some implications arise for learning from demonstration.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems