Redundancy, pointing, wrist, forearm, Donders


The musculoskeletal system can move in more ways than are strictly necessary, allowing many tasks to be accomplished with a variety of limb configurations. Why some configurations are preferred has been a focus of motor control research, but most studies have focused on shoulder-elbow or whole-arm movements. This study focuses on movements involving forearm pronation-supination (PS), wrist flexion-extension (FE), and wrist radial-ulnar deviation (RUD), and elucidates how these three degrees of freedom (DOF) combine to perform the common task of pointing, which only requires two DOF. Although pointing is more sensitive to FE and RUD than to PS and could be easily accomplished with FE and RUD alone, subjects tend to involve a small amount of PS. However, why we choose this behavior has been unknown and is the focus of this paper. Using a second-order model with lumped parameters, we tested a number of plausible control strategies involving minimization of work, potential energy, torque, and path length. None of these control schemes robustly predicted the observed behavior. However, an alternative control scheme hypothesized to control the DOF that were most important to the task (FE and RUD) and ignore the less important DOF (PS), matched the observed behavior well. In particular, the behavior observed in PS appears to be a mechanical side effect caused by unopposed interaction torques. We conclude that moderately-sized pointing movements involving the wrist and forearm are controlled by ignoring forearm rotation even though this strategy does not robustly minimize work, potential energy, torque, or path length.

Original Publication Citation

G. R. Dorman, K. C. Davis, A. W. Peaden, and S. K. Charles, "Control of redundant pointing movements involving the wrist and forearm," Journal of Neurophysiology (accepted 21 June 2018)

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Neurophysiology




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor