Virtual stick balancing (VSB) is a manual visuomotor tracking task that involves interplay between a human and a computer in which the movements are programmed to resemble those of balancing a stick at the fingertip. Since time delays and random perturbations (“noise”) are intrinsic properties of this task, we modeled VSB as a delayed pursuit-escape process: the target movements are described by a simple random walk and those movements controlled by the computer mouse by a delayed random walk biased towards the target. As subjects become more skilled, a stereotyped and recurring pursuit-escape pattern develops in which the mouse pursues the target until it overtakes it, causing the target to move in a different direction, followed, after a lag, by the pursing mouse. The delayed pursuit-escape random walk model captured the qualitative nature of this tracking task and provided insights into why this tracking task always fails at some point in time, even for the most expert subjects.

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