BACKGROUND Rotation of the torso while reaching produces torques (e.g., Coriolis torque) that deviate the arm from its planned trajectory. To ensure an accurate reaching movement, the brain may take these perturbing torques into account during movement planning or, alternatively, it may correct hand trajectory during movement execution. Irrespective of the process selected, it is expected that an underestimation of trunk rotation would likely induce inaccurate shoulder and elbow torques, resulting in hand deviation. Nonetheless, it is still undetermined to what extent a small error in the perception of trunk rotations, translating into an inappropriate selection of motor commands, would affect reaching accuracy. METHODS To investigate, we adapted a biomechanical model (J Neurophysiol 89: 276-289, 2003) to predict the consequences of underestimating trunk rotations on right hand reaching movements performed during either clockwise or counter clockwise torso rotations. RESULTS The results revealed that regardless of the degree to which the torso rotation was underestimated, the amplitude of hand deviation was much larger for counter clockwise rotations than for clockwise rotations. This was attributed to the fact that the Coriolis and centripetal joint torques were acting in the same direction during counter clockwise rotation yet in opposite directions during clockwise rotations, effectively cancelling each other out. CONCLUSIONS These findings suggest that in order to anticipate and compensate for the interaction torques generated during torso rotation while reaching, the brain must have an accurate prediction of torso rotation kinematics. The present study proposes that when designing upper limb prostheses controllers, adding a sensor to monitor trunk kinematics may improve prostheses control and performance.
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