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Krüger, Melanie; Straube, Andreas; Eggert, Thomas (2017): The Propagation of Movement Variability in Time: A Methodological Approach for Discrete Movements with Multiple Degrees of Freedom. In: Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, Vol. 11, 93


In recent years, theory-building in motor neuroscience and our understanding of the synergistic control of the redundant human motor system has significantly profited from the emergence of a range of different mathematical approaches to analyze the structure of movement variability. Approaches such as the Uncontrolled Manifold method or the Noise-Tolerance-Covariance decomposition method allow to detect and interpret changes in movement coordination due to e.g., learning, external task constraints or disease, by analyzing the structure of within-subject, inter-trial movement variability. Whereas, for cyclical movements (e.g., locomotion), mathematical approaches exist to investigate the propagation of movement variability in time (e.g., time series analysis), similar approaches are missing for discrete, goal-directed movements, such as reaching. Here, we propose canonical correlation analysis as a suitable method to analyze the propagation of within-subject variability across different time points during the execution of discrete movements. While similar analyses have already been applied for discrete movements with only one degree of freedom (DoF;e.g., Pearson's product-moment correlation), canonical correlation analysis allows to evaluate the coupling of inter-trial variability across different time points along the movement trajectory for multiple DoF-effector systems, such as the arm. The theoretical analysis is illustrated by empirical data from a study on reaching movements under normal and disturbed proprioception. The results show increased movement duration, decreased movement amplitude, as well as altered movement coordination under ischemia, which results in a reduced complexity of movement control. Movement endpoint variability is not increased under ischemia. This suggests that healthy adults are able to immediately and efficiently adjust the control of complex reaching movements to compensate for the loss of proprioceptive information. Further, it is shown that, by using canonical correlation analysis, alterations in movement coordination that indicate changes in the control strategy concerning the use of motor redundancy can be detected, which represents an important methodical advance in the context of neuromechanics.