Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 218, Issue 3, pp 419–431 | Cite as

Variant and invariant features characterizing natural and reverse whole-body pointing movements

  • Enrico Chiovetto
  • Laura Patanè
  • Thierry Pozzo
Research Article


Previous investigations showed that kinematics and muscle activity associated with natural whole-body movements along the gravity direction present modular organizations encoding specific aspects relative to both the motor plans and the motor programmes underlying movement execution. It is, however, still unknown whether such modular structures characterize also the reverse movements, when the displacement of a large number of joints is required to take the whole body back to a standing initial posture. To study what motor patterns are conserved across the reversal of movement direction, principal component analysis and non-negative matrix factorization were therefore applied, respectively, to the time series describing the temporal evolution of the elevation angles associated with all the body links and to the electromyographic signals of both natural and reverse whole-body movements. Results revealed that elevation angles were highly co-varying in time and that despite some differences in the global parameters characterizing the different movements (indicating differences in high-level variable associated with the selected motor plans), the level of joint co-variation did not change across movement direction. In contrast, muscle organization of the forward whole-body pointing tasks was found to be different with respect to that characterizing the reverse movements. Such results agree with previous findings, according to which the central nervous system exploits, dependently on the direction of motion, different motor plans for the execution of whole-body movements. However, in addition, this study shows how such motor plans are translated into different muscle strategies that equivalently assure a high level of co-variation in the joint space.


Reverse whole-body pointing movements Coordination Principal component analysis EMG Non-negative matrix factorization Multi-joint coordination 



Dr. Chiovetto’s research was partly supported by EU grant FP7-ICT-248311 (AMARSI).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enrico Chiovetto
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Laura Patanè
    • 3
    • 4
  • Thierry Pozzo
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Section for Computational Sensomotorics, Department of Cognitive NeurologyHertie Institute for Clinical Brain ResearchTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Integrative NeuroscienceUniversity Clinic TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Robotics, Brain and Cognitive SciencesItalian Institute of TechnologyGenoaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Communication, Computer and System SciencesUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly
  5. 5.Institut Universitaire de FranceUniversité de Bourgogne, DijonDijonFrance
  6. 6.U887 Motricité-PlasticitéINSERMDijonFrance

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