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The energetic basis for smooth human arm movements

Cite this dataset

Wong, Jeremy (2021). The energetic basis for smooth human arm movements [Dataset]. Dryad.


The central nervous system plans human reaching movements with stereotypically smooth kinematic trajectories and fairly consistent durations. Smoothness seems to be explained by accuracy as a primary movement objective, whereas duration seems to avoid excess energy expenditure. But energy does not explain smoothness, so that two aspects of the same movement are governed by seemingly incompatible objectives. Here we show that smoothness is actually economical, because humans expend more metabolic energy for jerkier motions. The proposed mechanism is an underappreciated cost proportional to the rate of muscle force production, for calcium transport to activate muscle. We experimentally tested that energy cost in humans (N=10) performing bimanual reaches cyclically. The empirical cost was then demonstrated to predict smooth, discrete reaches, previously attributed to accuracy alone. A  mechanistic, physiologically measurable, energy cost may therefore unify smoothness and duration, and help resolve motor redundancy in reaching movements.


Data was collected on a KINARM robot and processed using custom scripts in matlab.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Alberta Health Trust

Benno Nigg Research Chair