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Adiabatic invariants drive rhythmic human motion in variable gravity
Voluntary human movements are stereotyped. When modeled in the framework of classical mechanics they are expected to minimize cost functions that may include energy, a natural candidate from a physiological point of view also. In time-changing environments, however, energy is no longer conserved—regardless of frictional energy dissipation—and it is therefore not the preferred candidate for any cost function able to describe the subsequent changes in motor strategies. Adiabatic invariants are known to be relevant observables in such systems, although they still need to be investigated in human motor control. We fill this gap and show that the theory of adiabatic invariants provides an accurate description of how human participants modify a voluntary, rhythmic, one-dimensional motion of the forearm in response to variable gravity (from 1 to 3g). Our findings suggest that adiabatic invariants may reveal generic hidden constraints ruling human motion in time-changing gravity.