Viewer-centered and body-centered frames of reference in direct visuomotor transformations

Exp Brain Res. 1999 Nov;129(2):201-10. doi: 10.1007/s002210050890.


It has been hypothesized that the end-point position of reaching may be specified in an egocentric frame of reference. In most previous studies, however, reaching was toward a memorized target, rather than an actual target. Thus, the role played by sensorimotor transformation could not be disassociated from the role played by storage in short-term memory. In the present study the direct process of sensorimotor transformation was investigated in reaching toward continuously visible targets that need not be stored in memory. A virtual reality system was used to present visual targets in different three-dimensional (3D) locations in two different tasks, one with visual feedback of the hand and arm position (Seen Hand) and the other without such feedback (Unseen Hand). In the Seen Hand task, the axes of maximum variability and of maximum contraction converge toward the mid-point between the eyes. In the Unseen Hand task only the maximum contraction correlates with the sight-line and the axes of maximum variability are not viewer-centered but rotate anti-clockwise around the body and the effector arm during the move from the right to the left workspace. The bulk of findings from these and previous experiments support the hypothesis of a two-stage process, with a gradual transformation from viewer-centered to body-centered and arm-centered coordinates. Retinal, extra-retinal and arm-related signals appear to be progressively combined in superior and inferior parietal areas, giving rise to egocentric representations of the end-point position of reaching.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Distortion / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • User-Computer Interface

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