The authors addressed the hypothesis that economy in motor coordination is a learning phenomenon realized by both reduced energy cost for a given workload and more external work at the same prepractice metabolic and attentional energy expenditure. "Self-optimization" of movement parameters has been proposed to reflect learned motor adaptations that minimize energy costs. Twelve men aged 22.3 [+ or -] 3.9 years practiced a 90[degrees] relative phase, upper limb, independent ergometer cycling task at 60 rpm, followed by a transfer test of unpracticed (45 and 75 rpm) and self-paced cadences. Performance in all conditions was initially unstable, inaccurate, and relatively high in both metabolic and attentional energy costs. With practice, coordinative stability increased, more work was performed for the same metabolic and attentional costs, and the same work was done at a reduced energy cost. Self-paced cycling was initially below the metabolically optimal, but following practice at 60 rpm was closer to optimal cadence. Given the many behavioral options of the motor system in meeting a variety of everyday movement task goals, optimal metabolic and attentional energy criteria may provide a solution to the problem of selecting the most adaptive coordination and control parameters.
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