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Shaklai, S., Mimouni-Bloch, A., Levin, M., & Friedman, J. (2017). Development of finger force coordination in children. Experimental Brain Research, 235(12), 3709–3720.
Abstract: Coordination is often observed as body parts moving together. However, when producing force with multiple fingers, the optimal coordination is not to produce similar forces with each finger, but rather for each finger to correct mistakes of other fingers. In this study, we aim to determine whether and how this skill develops in children aged 4-12 years. We measured this sort of coordination using the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis (UCM). We recorded finger forces produced by 60 typically developing children aged between 4 and 12 years in a finger-pressing task. The children controlled the height of an object on a screen by the total amount of force they produced on force sensors. We found that the synergy index, a measure of the relationship between “good” and “bad” variance, increased linearly as a function of age. This improvement was achieved by a selective reduction in “bad” variance rather than an increase in “good” variance. We did not observe differences between males and females, and the synergy index was not able to predict outcomes of upper limb behavioral tests after controlling for age. As children develop between the ages of 4 and 12 years, their ability to produce negative covariation between their finger forces improves, likely related to their improved ability to perform dexterous tasks.
Noy, L., Weiser, N., & Friedman, J. (2017). Synchrony in Joint Action Is Directed by Each Participant's Motor Control System. Front. Psychol., 8, 531.
Abstract: In this work, we ask how the probability of achieving synchrony in joint action is affected by the choice of motion parameters of each individual. We use the mirror game paradigm to study how changes in leader�s motion parameters, specifically frequency and peak velocity, affect the probability of entering the state of co-confidence (CC) motion: a dyadic state of synchronized, smooth and co-predictive motions. In order to systematically study this question, we used a one-person version of the mirror game, where the participant mirrored piece-wise rhythmic movements produced by a computer on a graphics tablet. We systematically varied the frequency and peak velocity of the movements to determine how these parameters affect the likelihood of synchronized joint action. To assess synchrony in the mirror game we used the previously developed marker of co-confident (CC) motions: smooth, jitter-less and synchronized motions indicative of co-predicative control. We found that when mirroring movements with low frequencies (i.e., long duration movements), the participants never showed CC, and as the frequency of the stimuli increased, the probability of observing CC also increased. This finding is discussed in the framework of motor control studies showing an upper limit on the duration of smooth motion. We confirmed the relationship between motion parameters and the probability to perform CC with three sets of data of open-ended two-player mirror games. These findings demonstrate that when performing movements together, there are optimal movement frequencies to use in order to maximize the possibility of entering a state of synchronized joint action. It also shows that the ability to perform synchronized joint action is constrained by the properties of our motor control systems.