Posture control and trajectory formation during arm movement
One hypothesis for the generation of spatially oriented arm movements by the central nervous system is that a desired joint position is determined by the ratio of the tensions of agonist and antagonist muscles. According to this hypothesis, the transition between equilibrium states should be solely a function of the contraction time of the motor units and the mechanical properties of the arm. We tested this hypothesis in intact and deafferented rhesus monkeys by holding the forearm and measuring the accelerative transient after release of the forearm and by directly measuring the time course of the increase in torque during the movement. Both methods indicated an average time of 400 msec for attaining peak torque in a movement with a duration of 700 msec. In addition, by displacing the arm from its normal trajectory during the movement, we observed that the arm returned neither to the initial nor to the final equilibrium positions, but to points intermediate between them. We conclude that the processes underlying trajectory formation must be more complex than a simple switch between one equilibrium position and another.