A model of motor performance during surface penetration: from physics to voluntary control
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The act of puncturing a surface with a hand-held tool is a ubiquitous but complex motor behavior that requires precise force control to avoid potentially severe consequences. We present a detailed model of puncture over a time course of approximately 1,000 ms, which is fit to kinematic data from individual punctures, obtained via a simulation with high-fidelity force feedback. The model describes puncture as proceeding from purely physically determined interactions between the surface and tool, through decline of force due to biomechanical viscosity, to cortically mediated voluntary control. When fit to the data, it yields parameters for the inertial mass of the tool/person coupling, time characteristic of force decline, onset of active braking, stopping time and distance, and late oscillatory behavior, all of which the analysis relates to physical variables manipulated in the simulation. While the present data characterize distinct phases of motor performance in a group of healthy young adults, the approach could potentially be extended to quantify the performance of individuals from other populations, e.g., with sensory–motor impairments. Applications to surgical force control devices are also considered.