The point of no return in planar hand movements: An indication of the existence of high level motion primitives

Ronen Sosnik, Moshe Shemesh, Moshe Abeles

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    12 Scopus citations


    Previous psychophysical studies have sought to determine whether the processes of movement engagement and termination are dissociable, whether stopping an action is a generic process, and whether there is a point in time in which the generation of a planned action is inevitable ("point of no return"). It is not clear yet, however, whether the action of stopping is merely a manifestation of low level, dynamic constraints, or whether it is also subject to a high level, kinematic plan. In the present study, stopping performance was studied while nine subjects, who generated free scribbling movements looking for the location of an invisible circular target, were requested unexpectedly to impede movement. Temporal analysis of the data shows that in 87% of the movements subsequent to the 'stop' cue, the tangential motion velocity profile was not a decelerating function of the time but rather exhibited a complex pattern comprised of one or more velocity peaks, implying an unstoppable motion element. Furthermore, geometrical analysis shows that the figural properties of the path generated after the 'stop' cue were part of a repetitive geometrical pattern and that the probability of completing a pattern after the 'stop' cue was correlated with the relative advance in the geometrical plan rather than the amount of time that had elapsed from the pattern initiation. Altogether, these findings suggest that the "point of no return" phenomenon in humans may also reflect a high level kinematic plan and could serve as a new operative definition of motion primitives.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)341-358
    Number of pages18
    JournalCognitive Neurodynamics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 2007

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Acknowledgments We would like to thank Prof. Tamar Flash and Prof. Claude Ghez for their insightful comments. This work was supported in part by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework of German-Israeli Project Cooperation (DIP) and the Rich center.


    • Motion primitives
    • Motor control
    • Point of no return
    • Scribbling movements


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