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Journal Articles Frontiers in Physiology Year : 2021

Fast Hand Movements Unveil Multifractal Roots of Adaptation in the Visuomotor Cognitive System


Beyond apparent simplicity, visuomotor dexterity actually requires the coordination of multiple interactions across a complex system that links the brain, the body and the environment. Recent research suggests that a better understanding of how perceptive, cognitive and motor activities cohere to form executive control could be gained from multifractal formalisms applied to movement behavior. Rather than a central executive “talking” to encapsuled components, the multifractal intuition suggests that eye-hand coordination arises from multiplicative cascade dynamics across temporal scales of activity within the whole system, which is reflected in movement time series. Here we examined hand movements of sport students performing a visuomotor task in virtual reality (VR). The task involved hitting spatially arranged targets that lit up on a virtual board under critical time pressure. Three conditions were compared where the visual search field changed: whole board (Standard), half-board lower view field (LVF) and upper view field (UVF). Densely sampled (90 Hz) time series of hand motions captured by VR controllers were analyzed by a focus-based multifractal detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). Multiplicative rather than additive interactions across temporal scales were evidenced by testing comparatively phase-randomized surrogates of experimental series, which confirmed nonlinear processes. As main results, it was demonstrated that: (i) the degree of multifractality in hand motion behavior was minimal in LVF, a familiar visual search field where subjects correlatively reached their best visuomotor response times (RTs); (ii) multifractality increased in the less familiar UVF, but interestingly only for the non-dominant hand; and (iii) multifractality increased further in Standard, for both hands indifferently; in Standard, the maximal expansion of the visual search field imposed the highest demand as evidenced by the worst visuomotor RTs. Our observations advocate for visuomotor dexterity best described by multiplicative cascades dynamics and a system-wide distributed control rather than a central executive. More importantly, multifractal metrics obtained from hand movements behavior, beyond the confines of the brain, offer a window on the fine organization of control architecture, with high sensitivity to hand-related control behavior under specific constraints. Appealing applications may be found in movement learning/rehabilitation, e.g., in hemineglect people, stroke patients, maturing children or athletes.

Dates and versions

hal-03293049 , version 1 (20-07-2021)



Yvan Pratviel, Veronique Deschodt-Arsac, Florian Larrue, Laurent Arsac. Fast Hand Movements Unveil Multifractal Roots of Adaptation in the Visuomotor Cognitive System. Frontiers in Physiology, 2021, 12, ⟨10.3389/fphys.2021.713076⟩. ⟨hal-03293049⟩
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