The present study evaluated the specific effects of motor demand and visual demands on the ability to control motor output in terms of performance and muscle activation. Young and elderly subjects performed multidirectional pointing tasks with the computer mouse. Three levels of mouse gain and three levels of target size were used. All subjects demonstrated a reduced working speed and hit rate at the highest mouse gain (1:8) when the target size was small. The young group had an optimum at mouse gain 1:4. The elderly group was most sensitive to the combination of high mouse gain and small targets and thus, this age group should avoid this combination. Decreasing target sizes (i.e. increasing visual demand) reduced performance in both groups despite that motor demand was maintained constant. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid small screen objects and letters. Forearm muscle activity was only to a minor degree influenced by mouse gain (and target sizes) indicating that stability of the forearm/hand is of significance during computer mouse control. The study has implications for ergonomists, pointing device manufacturers and software developers.
Applied Ergonomics, 2005, Vol 36, Issue 5, p. 547-555