Humans coordinate biomechanical degrees of freedom to perform tasks at minimum cost. When reaching a target from a seated position, the trunk-arm-forearm coordination moves the hand to the well-defined spatial goal, while typically minimising hand jerk and trunk motion. However, due to fatigue or stroke, people visibly move the trunk more, and it is unclear what cost can account for this. Here we show that people recruit their trunk when the torque at the shoulder is too close to the maximum. We asked 26 healthy participants to reach a target while seated and we found that the trunk contribution to hand displacement increases from 11% to 27% when an additional load is handled. By flexing and rotating the trunk, participants spontaneously increase the reserve of anti-gravitational torque at the shoulder from 25% to 40% of maximal voluntary torque. Our findings provide hints on how to include the reserve of torque in the cost function of optimal control models of human coordination in healthy fatigued persons or in stroke victims.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience