Influence of internal and external noise on spontaneous visuomotor synchronization

Manuel Varlet*, R. C. Schmidt, Michael J. Richardson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Historically, movement noise or variability is considered to be an undesirable property of biological motor systems. In particular, noise is typically assumed to degrade the emergence and stability of rhythmic motor synchronization. Recently, however, it has been suggested that small levels of noise might actually improve the functioning of motor systems and facilitate their adaptation to environmental events. Here, the authors investigated whether noise can facilitate spontaneous rhythmic visuomotor synchronization. They examined the influence of internal noise in the rhythmic limb movements of participants and external noise in the movement of an oscillating visual stimulus on the occurrence of spontaneous synchronization. By indexing the natural frequency variability of participants and manipulating the frequency variability of the visual stimulus, the authors demonstrated that both internal and external noise degrade synchronization when the participants and stimulus movement frequencies are similar, but can actually facilitate synchronization when the frequencies are different. Furthermore, the two kinds of noise interact with each other. Internal noise facilitates synchronization only when external noise is minimal and vice versa. Too much internal and external noise together degrades synchronization. These findings open new perspectives for better understanding the role of noise in human rhythmic coordination. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-131
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Motor Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • sensorimotor synchronization
  • unintentional coordination
  • entrainment
  • movement variability
  • noise
  • frequency fluctuations


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