The spatiotemporal structure of control variables during catching

R. C.J. Polman*, H. T.A. Whiting, G. J.P. Savelsbergh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The discrepancy between traditional (force scaling models) and the more recently conceived dynamic explanations of load compensation (λ model) was the departure point for the present study. By using the complex 'open' motor skill of catching a ball - rather than the traditional 'closed' skills - under 'normal' (baseline) conditions and under conditions where a spring load was applied to the catching hand (thereby changing the dynamics of the skeleto-muscular system) it was hoped to provide further clarification of this issue. Traditional force scaling models, in this respect, would predict that maximal closing velocity of the grasp action, and movement time would not be significantly different between a control and a spring-load condition. In contrast, a dynamic system perspective would maintain that spring loading would be compensated for by a change in the rate of shift of the reciprocal command (R-command). The obtained results showed a significant difference for conditions with regard to the maximal closing velocity of the grasp action, the baseline condition being higher than the two spring-load conditions. Furthermore, a significant difference was found for the aperture at moment of catch, the aperture at moment of catch being smaller in the baseline condition than that under the two spring-load conditions. With regard to the temporal variables, no significant differences were obtained. A comprehensive overall explanation of the obtained data in terms of the force scaling models was not realisable. It may be that findings supporting such theories are task specific and that for constrained tasks - such as catching a ball different underlying organisational principles apply. The λ model, however, could explain adequately the obtained results. It was concluded that, except for the preparatory phase associated with load compensation before the onset of the movement of the ball, the spatiotemporal structure of the control pattern underlying catching remains the same (invariant) in both baseline and load conditions. Thereby, the spatiotemporal structure of the resulting movement changes under the influence of the load and thus is not the same for load and baseline condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-494
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • Human
  • Movement control
  • Movement organisation
  • Spring perturbation


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