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A customizable tablet app for hand movement research outside the lab

AuthorsMatic, Adam; Gomez-Marin, Alex
KeywordsTablet app
Motor control
Speed-curvature power law
Real-world neuroscience
Issue Date2019
CitationJournal of Neuroscience Methods 328: 108398 (2019)
Abstract[Background]: Precise behavioral measurements allow the discovery of movement constraints that provide insights into sensory-motor processes and their underlying neural mechanisms. For instance, when humans draw an ellipse on a piece of paper, the instantaneous speed of the pen co-varies tightly with the local curvature of the path. Known as the speed-curvature power law, this phenomenon relates to fundamental questions of motor control.
[New method]: We have developed a software app for displaying static curves or dynamic targets while recording finger or stylus movements on Android touch-screen tablets. Designed for human hand movement research, the app is free, ready-to-use, open-source and customizable.
[Results]: We provide a template experimental protocol, and detailed explanations to use it and flexibly modify the code for different kinds of tasks. Our validation of the app demonstrates laboratory-quality results outside the laboratory. We also provide raw data and analysis scripts.
[Comparison with existing methods]: Commonly used laboratory devices for recording hand movement trajectories are large, heavy and expensive. In turn, software apps are often not published, nor customizable. Our app running on tablets becomes an affordable, flexible, and portable tool suited for quantitative and robust behavioral studies with large number of participants and outside the laboratory (e.g. in a classroom, a hospital, or at home).
[Conclusions]: The affordability, flexibility, and resolution of our tablet app provide an effective tool to study behavior quantitatively in the real world.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2019.108398
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