Center for Interdisziplinary Research

Architecture of Human Motor Action

From Kinematics to Cognitive Models

Date: May 2 - 3, 2011

Convenors: Bettina Bläsing (Bielefeld), Dimitri Volchenkov (Bielefeld)

The success of the workshop had resulted from the profound interest shared by all the participants in developing a new holistic approach to the architecture of human movements. We have discussed the human motor control system from the kinematical and dynamical characteristics of instantaneous movements, to their mental representations, to the cognitive architecture of complex movements achieved by the excellent cognitive control and mastery of mechanical skills, integrating new trends offered by cognitive science, network science, and communication theory. It has been pointed that interaction and especially language might play a structuring role in human action. The innate affinity between language and movements was the starting point of many discussions that scoped from (language => movement) the use of Chomsky's Minimalist Program as a reference model for a generative grammar of actions applied to a praxicon, lexicon of human movement to (movement => language) the analysis of the neural and functional grounding of language skills emerged in hominid evolution from the mirror system for grasping rather than from a system for vocal communication. Despite the inherent connection to language, the complex spatio-temporal grammars of human movements can be markedly different from language grammars recursively aligning words in a sequential order, as might evolve simultaneous, alternating, or rhythmical combinations of gestures, facial expressions, and body postures, thus producing meanings in different parts of the visual field synchronously and holistically, as in dance and sign languages. Nevertheless, humans can easily perceive and infer intentions, emotions, and meanings from observing actions in other individuals by using context clues and extracting sequences of postures on the basis of dynamic templates of motion that is likely rooted in the synergy of perception and action. We have also pointed that our brain represents space in multiple interactive body-grounded frames of reference; these representations are mostly spontaneous and might be influenced by different factors. Action space is also represented in multiple interactive body-grounded frames of reference. Changing action plans interferes with memory (and the strength of interference effect depends on task demands). End state comfort property is influenced by different factors such as the task-irrelevant visual factors and hand orientation before task onset might have effect only for small angles. Connection of kinematics to cognition also was at the focus of our attention. On the one hand, it was suggested that such connection might be only indirect, through a metaphor. On the other hand, complex movements as stored in long term memory can be conceptualized as a network of sensorimotor information the composition of which depends upon the individual’s level of expertise. Experts have more functional task-related long term memory structures and more efficient gaze behaviour when judging real world scenarios than novices. The difference of kinematic signals between professionals and novices in classical dance has been reported - in particular, the signal energy decay is more ordered in time and over body parts in experts. In summing up the workshop, we have opened a broad discussion on additional emerging topics that may contribute to shape the future of researches in architecture of human motor actions which came about under the spell of profound relations between language and movement.

The workshop has succeeded in initiation of a broad dialog between specialists in biomechanics, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, mathematical physics, and intelligent systems sharing a common interest in the investigation of motor control in humans. Acting as a seed for the development of further activities and subsequent projects, the workshop promoted the emergence of a dense network of interconnections across interdisciplinary boundaries.


Yiannis Aloimonos (College Park, MD), Martin V. Butz (Würzburg), Holk Cruse (Bielefeld), Kai Essig (Bielefeld), Martin Felis (Heidelberg), Robert Haschke (Bielefeld), Josef Ilmberger (München), Timo Klein-Soetebier (Saarbrücken), Rajyashree Ramesh (Berlin), Helge Ritter (Bielefeld), Malte Schilling (Berkeley, CA), Alexander Schubert (Heidelberg), Oleg Strogan (Bielefeld), Matthias Weigelt (Saarbrücken), Jeffrey Zacks (St. Louis, MO)

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