Artificial gravity reveals that economy of action determines the stability of sensorimotor coordination.

Richard G. Carson, Yalchin Oytam, Stefan Riek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
227 Downloads (Pure)


When we move along in time with a piece of music, we synchronise the downward phase of our gesture with the beat. While it is easy to demonstrate this tendency, there is considerable debate as to its neural origins. It may have a structural basis, whereby the gravitational field acts as an orientation reference that biases the formulation of motor commands. Alternatively, it may be functional, and related to the economy with which motion assisted by gravity can be generated by the motor system.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a robotic system to generate a mathematical model of the gravitational forces acting upon the hand, and then to reverse the effect of gravity, and invert the weight of the limb. In these circumstances, patterns of coordination in which the upward phase of rhythmic hand movements coincided with the beat of a metronome were more stable than those in which downward movements were made on the beat. When a normal gravitational force was present, movements made down-on-the-beat were more stable than those made up-on-the-beat.
The ubiquitous tendency to make a downward movement on a musical beat arises not from the perception of gravity, but as a result of the economy of action that derives from its exploitation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere5248
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Artificial gravity reveals that economy of action determines the stability of sensorimotor coordination.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this