Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 257–270 | Cite as

A dynamic theory of coordination of discrete movement

  • G. Schöner


The concepts of pattern dynamics and their adaptation through behavioral information, developed in the context of rhythmic movement coordination, are generalized to describe discrete movements of single components and the coordination of multiple components in discrete movement. In a first step we consider only one spatial component and study the temporal order inherent in discrete movement in terms of stable, reproducible space-time relationships. The coordination of discrete movement is captured in terms of relative timing. Using an exactly solvable nonlinear oscillator as a mathematical model, we show how the timing properties of discrete movement can be described by these pattern dynamics and discuss the relation of the pattern variables to observable end-effector movement. By coupling several such component dynamics in a fashion analogous to models of rhythmic movement coordination we capture the coordination of discrete movements of two components. We find the tendency to synchronize the component movements as the discrete analogon of in-phase locking and study its breakdown when the components become too different in their dynamic properties. The concept of temporal stability leads to the prediction that remote compensatory responses occur such as the restore synchronization when one component is perturbed. This prediction can be used to test the theory. We find that the discrete analogon to antiphase locking in rhythmic movement is a tendency to move sequentially, a finding that can also be subjected to empirical test.


Pattern Variable Empirical Test Relative Timing Temporal Order Nonlinear Oscillator 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Schöner
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Complex SystemsFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

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