Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 42, Issue 2–3, pp 187–201 | Cite as

Thermodynamic study of motor behaviour optimization

  • Patrick Cordier
  • Michel Mendès France
  • Philippe Bolon
  • Jean Pailhous


Our work is aimed at studying the optimization of a complex motor behaviour from a global perspective. First, ‘free climbing’ as a sport will be briefly introduced while emphasizing in particular its psychomotor aspect called ‘route finding’. The basic question raised here is how does the optimization of a sensorimotoricity-environment system take place. The material under study is the free climber's trajectory, viewed as the ‘signature’ of climbing behaviour (i.e., the spatial dimension). The concepts of learning, optimization, constraint, and degrees of freedom of a system will be discussed using the synergistic approach to the study of movement (Bernstein, 1967; Kelso, 1977). Measures of a trajectory's length and convex hull can be used to define an index whose equation resembles that of an entropy. This index is a measure of the trajectory's overall complexity. Some important concepts related to the thermodynamics of curves will also be discussed. The optimization process will be studied by examining the changes in entropy over time for a set of trajectories generated during the learning of a route (ten successive repetitions of the same climb). It will be shown that the entropy of the trajectories decreases as learning progresses, that each level of expertise has its own characteristic entropy curve, and that for the subjects tested, the mean entropy of skilled climbers is lower than that of average climbers. Basing our analysis on the concepts of degrees of freedom and constraint equations, an attempt is made to relate trajectory entropy to system entropy. Based on the postulate that trajectory entropy is equal to the difference in entropy between the unconstrained and constrained system, a model of motor optimization is proposed. This model is illustrated by an entropy graph reflecting a dynamic release process. In the light of our results, two opposing views will be examined: movement construction vs. movement emergence.


Motor Behaviour Route Finding Complex Motor Characteristic Entropy Successive Repetition 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Cordier
    • 1
  • Michel Mendès France
    • 2
  • Philippe Bolon
    • 3
  • Jean Pailhous
    • 4
  1. 1.Ecole Nationale de Ski et d'AlpinismeChamonix
  2. 2.UER d'Informatique et Mathématique PureUniversité de Bordeaux IBordeauxFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire d'Automatique et de Micro-Informatique IndustrielleUniversité de SavoieAnnecy
  4. 4.Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sciences de la Vie et de la TerrePlasticité du Comportement de l'Homme AdulteFrance

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