Characterizing Motor Variability During Lifting Tasks

Sedighi A, Nussbaum MA. Exploration of different classes of metrics to characterize motor variability during repetitive symmetric and asymmetric lifting tasks. Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 8;9(1):9821

Abstract: The substantial kinematic degrees-of-freedom available in human movement lead to inherent variations in a repetitive movement, or motor variability (MV). Growing evidence suggests that characterizing MV permits a better understanding of potential injury mechanisms. Several diverse methods, though, have been used to quantify MV, but limited evidence exists regarding the merits of these methods in the occupational context. In this work, we explored different classes of methods for characterizing MV during symmetric and asymmetric box lifting tasks. Kinematic MV of both the whole-body center-of-mass (COM) and the box were quantified, using metrics derived from a linear method (Standard Deviation), a non-linear method (Sample Entropy; an index of movement regularity), and a novel application of an equifinality method (Goal Equivalent Manifold; an index related to the set of effective motor solutions). Our results suggest that individuals manipulate regularity and the set of effective motor solutions to overcome unwanted motor noises related to the COM. These results, together with earlier evidence, imply that individuals may prioritize stability over variability with increasing task difficulty. Task performance also appeared to deteriorate with decreasing variability and regularity of the COM. We conclude that diverse metrics of MV may be complimentary to reveal differences in MV.