In complex adaptive systems approaches to perceptual-motor control the mapping between the different categories of task dynamics: namely, task outcome, collective variable, neuromuscular synergies and individual joint configurations is a central theoretical issue, that has been primarily studied in bimanual tasks. Here we report an investigation in the roller ball task of how the task goal and multiple degrees of freedom of the arm-hand complex affords degeneracy between the respective properties of the task dynamics. The relation of the candidate collective variable, namely, the synchrony of the inner ball to outer shell motion of the roller ball and its relation to the task goal (continued increasing in ball speed), was examined as a function of the initial ball speed acting as a control parameter. Within trial analysis revealed initial search behavior for synchrony of ball and shell motion that was longer in duration with initial lower ball speed conditions. In contrast, higher initial ball speed conditions reduced the search time for and enhanced the rate of stabilization of the synchrony of inner ball and outer shell motion–features that facilitated the continued increase of ball speed and the probability of task success. Participants adopted one of three wrist-elbow neuromuscular synergies to manipulate the roller ball, the distribution of which was not influenced by either initial ball speed or task outcome. The pattern of findings over the different properties of task analysis of the roller ball provides evidence for the distinct but complementary dynamics of searching to form, stabilize and exploit a collective variable that satisfies the task goal through a small redundant set of arm-hand synergy motions.
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