This study tested two hypotheses on the nature of unintentional force drifts elicited by removing visual feedback during accurate force production tasks. The role of working memory (memory hypothesis) was explored in tasks with continuous force production, intermittent force production, and rest intervals over the same time interval. The assumption of unintentional drifts in referent coordinate for the fingertips was tested using manipulations of visual feedback: young healthy subjects performed accurate steady-state force production tasks by pressing with the two index fingers on individual force sensors with visual feedback on the total force, sharing ratio, both, or none. Predictions based on the memory hypothesis have been falsified. In particular, we observed consistent force drifts to lower force values during continuous force production trials only. No force drift or drifts to higher forces were observed during intermittent force production trials and following rest intervals. The hypotheses based on the idea of drifts in referent finger coordinates have been confirmed. In particular, we observed superposition of two drift processes: a drift of total force to lower magnitudes and a drift of the sharing ratio to 50:50. When visual feedback on total force only was provided, the two-finger forces showed drifts in opposite directions. We interpret the findings as evidence for the control of motor actions with changes in referent coordinates for participating effectors. Unintentional drifts in performance are viewed as natural relaxation processes in the involved systems; their typical time reflects stability in the direction of the drift. The magnitude of the drift was higher in the right (dominant) hand, which is consistent with the dynamic dominance hypothesis.
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