Dynamical signatures of isometric force control as a function of age, expertise, and task constraints

  • Vieluf Solveig
  • Sleimen-Malkoun Rita
  • Voelcker-Rehage Claudia
  • Jirsa Viktor
  • Reuter Eva-Maria
  • Godde Ben
  • Temprado Jean-Jacques
  • Huys Raoul


From the conceptual and methodological framework of the dynamical systems approach, force control results from complex interactions of various subsystems yielding observable behavioral fluctuations, which comprise both deterministic (predictable) and stochastic (noise-like) dynamical components. Here, we investigated these components contributing to the observed variability in force control in groups of participants differing in age and expertise level. To this aim, young (18-25 yr) as well as late middle-aged (55-65 yr) novices and experts (precision mechanics) performed a force maintenance and a force modulation task. Results showed that whereas the amplitude of force variability did not differ across groups in the maintenance tasks, in the modulation task it was higher for late middle-aged novices than for experts and higher for both these groups than for young participants. Within both tasks and for all groups, stochastic fluctuations were lowest where the deterministic influence was smallest. However, although all groups showed similar dynamics underlying force control in the maintenance task, a group effect was found for deterministic and stochastic fluctuations in the modulation task. The latter findings imply that both components were involved in the observed group differences in the variability of force fluctuations in the modulation task. These findings suggest that between groups the general characteristics of the dynamics do not differ in either task and that force control is more affected by age than by expertise. However, expertise seems to counteract some of the age effects. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Stochastic and deterministic dynamical components contribute to force production. Dynamical signatures differ between force maintenance and cyclic force modulation tasks but hardly between age and expertise groups. Differences in both stochastic and deterministic components are associated with group differences in behavioral variability, and observed behavioral variability is more strongly task dependent than person dependent.