Functional coordination of muscles underlying changes in behavioural dynamics

  • Vernooij Carlijn A
  • Rao Guillaume
  • Perdikis Dionysios
  • Huys Raoul
  • Jirsa Viktor
  • Temprado Jean-Jacques


The dynamical systems approach addresses Bernstein's degrees of freedom problem by assuming that the neuro-musculo-skeletal system transiently assembles and dismantles its components into functional units (or synergies) to meet task demands. Strikingly, little is known from a dynamical point of view about the functioning of the muscular subsystem in this process. To investigate the interaction between the dynamical organisation at muscular and behavioural levels, we searched for specific signatures of a phase transition in muscular coordination when a transition is displayed at the behavioural level. Our results provide evidence that, during Fitts' task when behaviour switches to a different dynamical regime, muscular activation displays typical signatures of a phase transition; a reorganisation in muscular coordination patterns accompanied by a peak in the variability of muscle activation. This suggests that consistent changes occur in coordination processes across the different levels of description (i.e., behaviour and muscles). Specifically, in Fitts' task, target size acts as a control parameter that induces a destabilisation and a reorganisation of coordination patterns at different levels of the neuro-musculo-skeletal system.