Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 201, Issue 2, pp 307–322 | Cite as

Adaptive and phase transition behavior in performance of discrete multi-articular actions by degenerate neurobiological systems

Research Article


The identification of attractors is one of the key tasks in studies of neurobiological coordination from a dynamical systems perspective, with a considerable body of literature resulting from this task. However, with regards to typical movement models investigated, the overwhelming majority of actions studied previously belong to the class of continuous, rhythmical movements. In contrast, very few studies have investigated coordination of discrete movements, particularly multi-articular discrete movements. In the present study, we investigated phase transition behavior in a basketball throwing task where participants were instructed to shoot at the basket from different distances. Adopting the ubiquitous scaling paradigm, throwing distance was manipulated as a candidate control parameter. Using a cluster analysis approach, clear phase transitions between different movement patterns were observed in performance of only two of eight participants. The remaining participants used a single movement pattern and varied it according to throwing distance, thereby exhibiting hysteresis effects. Results suggested that, in movement models involving many biomechanical degrees of freedom in degenerate systems, greater movement variation across individuals is available for exploitation. This observation stands in contrast to movement variation typically observed in studies using more constrained bi-manual movement models. This degenerate system behavior provides new insights and poses fresh challenges to the dynamical systems theoretical approach, requiring further research beyond conventional movement models.


Degeneracy Movement variability Multi-articular actions Constraints Phase transitions 

Supplementary material

221_2009_2040_MOESM1_ESM.doc (182 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 181 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Groupe de Recherche Apprentissage et ContexteParisFrance
  2. 2.School of Human Movement StudiesQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Physical EducationUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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