, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 101-112

Internal models and intermittency: A theoretical account of human tracking behavior

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This paper concerns the use of tracking studies to test a theoretical account of the information processing performed by the human CNS during control of movement. The theory provides a bridge between studies of reaction time and continuous tracking. It is proposed that the human CNS includes neuronal circuitry to compute inverse internal models of the multiple input, multiple output, dynamic, nonlinear relationships between outgoing motor commands and their resulting perceptual consequences. The inverse internal models are employed during movement execution to transform preplanned trajectories of desired perceptual consequences into appropriate outgoing motor commands to achieve them. A finite interval of time is required by the CNS to preplan the desired perceptual consequences of a movement and it does not commence planning a new movement until planning of the old one has been completed. This behavior introduces intermittency into the planning of movements. In this paper we show that the gain and phase frequency response characteristics of the human operator in a visual pursuit tracking task can be derived theoretically from these assumptions. By incorporating the effects of internal model inaccuracy and of speed-accuracy trade-off in performance, it is shown that various aspects of experimentally measured tracking behavior can be accounted for.