We explored unintentional changes in forces during performance of constant and cyclic force-production tasks (F-tasks) after visual feedback removal. Based on earlier studies, we expected all force parameters to drop exponentially with time. We also explored possible role of working memory in the force drop phenomena. Healthy subjects performed constant or cyclic isometric F-tasks with the index finger under visual feedback. The cyclic task was paced by a metronome. Removing visual feedback resulted in a consistent force drop in constant F-tasks and a qualitatively similar drift in the mean force in the cyclic F-task. Both were slow with characteristic times of about 10–20 s. In contrast, force amplitude in the cyclic F-task increased quickly (within 1–2 s). When the subjects were asked to stop producing force for 5 s after the visual feedback disappeared and then resume force production, no downward force drift was seen in constant F-tasks, while in cyclic F-tasks, the drift of the mean force was present and an exaggerated increase in force amplitude was also observed. We conclude that while working memory limitations may influence cyclic F-tasks, their role in determining the force drift in constant F-tasks is limited. The results of both experiments are interpreted within the referent configuration hypothesis supplemented with an idea of unintentional drift of referent coordinates (RC-back-coupling) induced by differences between the referent and actual body configurations.
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