Phase Transitions and Critical Fluctuations in Rhythmic Coordination of Ipsilateral Hand and Foot
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Four subjects performed rhythmic movements of the ankle and the wrist in time with an auditory metronome, in two modes of coordination, antiphase and in-phase. The forearm was placed in either a prone or a supine position. When movements were prepared in the antiphase mode, spontaneous transitions to the in-phase mode, or to phase wandering were observed as metronome frequency was increased. When prepared in the in-phase mode, transitions between in-phase modes or to phase wandering were occasionally observed. Predicted signature features of nonequilbrium phase transitions were noted, including loss of stability and critical fluctuations. The stability of the movement patterns was determined by spatial (dependent upon the direction of movement) rather than anatomical (dependent on the coupling of specific muscle groups) constraints. The position of the forearm had no consistent bearing upon the variability of the phase relations between the limbs, the frequency of phase transitions, or the time of onset of transitions. These results are discussed with reference to the coordination dynamics (e.g., multistability, loss of stability) of multijoint movements.
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