Catching a Ball at the Right Time and Place: Individual Factors Matter

TitleCatching a Ball at the Right Time and Place: Individual Factors Matter
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsCesqui, B, d'Avella, A, Portone, A, Lacquaniti, F
JournalPLoS One
KeywordsSLF, WP1-Human-Motor-Primitives

Intercepting a moving object requires accurate spatio-temporal control. Several studies have investigated how the CNS copes with such a challenging task, focusing on the nature of the information used to extract target motion parameters and on the identification of general control strategies. In the present study we provide evidence that the right time and place of the collision is not univocally specified by the CNS for a given target motion; instead, different but equally successful solutions can be adopted by different subjects when task constraints are loose. We characterized arm kinematics of fourteen subjects and performed a detailed analysis on a subset of six subjects who showed comparable success rates when asked to catch a flying ball in three dimensional space. Balls were projected by an actuated launching apparatus in order to obtain different arrival flight time and height conditions. Inter-individual variability was observed in several kinematic parameters, such as wrist trajectory, wrist velocity profile, timing and spatial distribution of the impact point, upper limb posture, trunk motion, and submovement decomposition. Individual idiosyncratic behaviors were consistent across different ball flight time conditions and across two experimental sessions carried out at one year distance. These results highlight the importance of a systematic characterization of individual factors in the study of interceptive tasks.

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