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Interfacing sensory input with motor output: does the control architecture converge to a serial process along a single channel?

van de Kamp, C and Gawthrop, PJ and Gollee, H and Lakie, M and Loram, ID (2013) Interfacing sensory input with motor output: does the control architecture converge to a serial process along a single channel? Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience. ISSN 1662-5188

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Abstract

Modular organization in control architecture may underlie the versatility of human motor control; but the nature of the interface relating sensory input through task-selection in the space of performance variables to control actions in the space of the elemental variables is currently unknown. Our central question is whether the control architecture converges to a serial process along a single channel? In discrete reaction time experiments, psychologists have firmly associated a serial single channel hypothesis with refractoriness and response selection [psychological refractory period (PRP)]. Recently, we developed a methodology and evidence identifying refractoriness in sustained control of an external single degree-of-freedom system. We hypothesize that multi-segmental whole-body control also shows refractoriness. Eight participants controlled their whole body to ensure a head marker tracked a target as fast and accurately as possible. Analysis showed enhanced delays in response to stimuli with close temporal proximity to the preceding stimulus. Consistent with our preceding work, this evidence is incompatible with control as a linear time invariant process. This evidence is consistent with a single-channel serial ballistic process within the intermittent control paradigm with an intermittent interval of around 0.5 s. A control architecture reproducing intentional human movement control must reproduce refractoriness. Intermittent control is designed to provide computational time for an online optimization process and is appropriate for flexible adaptive control. For human motor control we suggest that parallel sensory input converges to a serial, single channel process involving planning, selection, and temporal inhibition of alternative responses prior to low dimensional motor output. Such design could aid robots to reproduce the flexibility of human control.

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