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Movement coordination strategies underlying inter-individual differences in skill and rate of motor learning

Motivation

Movement variability is a fundamental feature of movement that refers to the variation observed when completing a single task numerous times. While variability is natural and inherent in any human movement, there are still several unanswered questions about its actual functional significance in clinical and sports applications. This study explores different aims that would establish the viability of using motor variability for systematic training/clinical assessments.

Approach

We will first investigate whether motor variability is a “consistent individual trait”. Consistency would be evaluated in terms of whether the level of motor variability observed in a single task stays consistent across multiple testing occasions (reliability aspect); and whether inter-individual differences observed in motor variability in a particular task stay consistent when the same individuals are tested in other tasks involving the same joints but with considerably different motor patterns (task dependency aspect). If motor variability is found to be a consistent and central individual trait, then keeping track of changes in motor variability would be of functional significance to development of training and rehabilitation protocols.

Second, we will investigate whether motor variability systematically differs with skill level (healthy controls vs. athletes) and whether within the same relative skill level, the level of motor variability in a task is correlated with performance outcomes.

Third, we will investigate whether motor variability in a baseline task that is well-learnt is predictive of the rate of learning a novel motor task.