Increased gravitational force reveals the mechanical, resonant nature of physiological tremor

  • Lakie M.
  • Vernooij C. A.
  • Osler C. J.
  • Stevenson A. T.
  • Scott J. P. R.
  • Reynolds R. F.


Human physiological hand tremor has a resonant component. Proof of this is that its frequency can be modified by adding mass. However, adding mass also increases the load which must be supported. The necessary force requires muscular contraction which will change motor output and is likely to increase limb stiffness. The increased stiffness will partly offset the effect of the increased mass and this can lead to the erroneous conclusion that factors other than resonance are involved in determining tremor frequency. Using a human centrifuge to increase head-to-foot gravitational field strength, we were able to control for the increased effort by increasing force without changing mass. This revealed that the peak frequency of human hand tremor is 99% predictable on the basis of a resonant mechanism. We ask what, if anything, the peak frequency of physiological tremor can reveal about the operation of the nervous system.