Manual joint-actions: informational basis of upper-limb coordination modes and benefits for mild arm paresis


Host Institution: Aix-Marseille University

Department that hosts the PhD: Institute for Movement Sciences

Contact: Prof. dr. Bootsma (use this email contact only to request additional information, do NOT use this email for applications)


Project description

This project’s goal is to specify how learning to perform a manual joint-action task can be understood as learning to coordinate one’s upper-limb actions with those of others on the basis of task-level information available to all participants and to translate this into a novel, joint action-based rehabilitation method for improving dexterity in people with mild arm paresis (MAP) after stroke.

In the project task two or more people jointly hold a large circular platform and manipulate its orientation, so as to roll a marble over the platform to a goal. Because marble motion is fully determined by (changes in) platform orientation, it constitutes useful task-level information for all individual participants with respect to required platform (re)orientation. Learning to perform the task together therefore implies learning to collaborate, that is, to set up an information-driven mode of coordination of individual upper-limb actions.

Characterizing between-participant coordination modes and understanding their informational bases will be achieved (i) by comparisons of learning-induced changes in behaviour on the task performed in 2- or 3-person configurations with those of individuals performing the task alone and (ii) by manipulation of the visual and haptic information available using a virtual-reality variation of the task, where participants jointly manipulate either a real or virtual platform, visually represented on head-mounted displays. Experiments with healthy participants (including experimental confederates) are complemented with experiments combining healthy and MAP participants to explore the potential benefits on dexterity of training on a joint-action task, where performance on the task depends not only on their own actions but also on those of other participants.


People involved

Prof. dr. Bootsma

Dr. Casanova

Dr. Passos

Dr. Schröter


Key publications

Riley, M. A., Richardson, M. J., Shockley, K. , & Ramenzoni, V. C. (2011). Interpersonal synergies. Front. Psychol. 2, 38.

Tuitert, I., Golenia, L., Otten, E., Bootsma, R.J., & Bongers, R.M. (2020). Task constraints act at the level of synergies and at the level of end-effector kinematics in manual reaching and manual lateral interception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 46(12), 1511–1526.

Zaal, F.T.J.M., & Bootsma, R.J. (2011). Virtual reality as a tool for the study of perception-action: the case of running to catch fly balls. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 20, 93-103.


Specific required skills of PhD student

Skill area
Language (writing) English
Language (speaking) English
Programming Matlab or Python
Statistics Non-linear data analyses
Statistical programs R
Background Human Movement Sciences, Sport & Exercise Science, Behavioural Sciences, Cognitive Sciences, Experimental Psychology, Rehabilitation Science
Project specific knowledge Information-movement coupling



Project characteristics

Primary focus project Behavioural experiments with humans

Able-bodied adults without disorders

Adults with mild paresis

Methods Information-driven dynamics

UCM, dimensional compression, reciprocal compensation