We explored posture-stabilizing multi-muscle synergies with two methods of analysis of multi-element, abundant systems: (1) Analysis of inter-cycle variance; and (2) Analysis of motor equivalence, both quantified within the framework of the uncontrolled manifold (UCM) hypothesis. Data collected in two earlier studies of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) were re-analyzed. One study compared synergies in the space of muscle modes (muscle groups with parallel scaling of activation) during tasks performed by early-stage PD patients and controls. The other study explored the effects of dopaminergic medication on multi-muscle-mode synergies. Inter-cycle variance and absolute magnitude of the center of pressure displacement across consecutive cycles were quantified during voluntary whole-body sway within the UCM and orthogonal to the UCM space. The patients showed smaller indices of variance within the UCM and motor equivalence compared to controls. The indices were also smaller in the off-drug compared to on-drug condition. There were strong across-subject correlations between the inter-cycle variance within/orthogonal to the UCM and motor equivalent/non-motor equivalent displacements. This study has shown that, at least for cyclical tasks, analysis of variance and analysis of motor equivalence lead to metrics of stability that correlate with each other and show similar effects of disease and medication. These results show, for the first time, intimate links between indices of variance and motor equivalence. They suggest that analysis of motor equivalence, which requires only a handful of trials, could be used broadly in the field of motor disorders to analyze problems with action stability.
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