Role of sensory information in updating internal models of the effector during arm tracking

Prog Brain Res. 2003;142:203-22. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(03)42015-3.


This chapter is divided into three main parts. Firstly, on the basis of the literature, we will shortly discuss how the recent introduction of the concept of internal models by Daniel Wolpert and Mitsuo Kawato contributes to a better understanding of what is motor learning and what is motor adaptation. Then, we will present a model of eye-hand co-ordination during self-moved target tracking, which we used as a way to specifically address these topics. Finally, we will show some evidence about the use of proprioceptive information for updating the internal models, in the context of eye-hand co-ordination. Motor and afferent information appears to contribute to the parametric adjustment (adaptation) between arm motor command and visual information about arm motion. The study reported here was aimed at assessing the contribution of arm proprioception in building (learning) and updating (adaptation) these representations. The subjects (including a deafferented subject) had to make back and forth movements with their forearm in the horizontal plane, over learned amplitude and at constant frequency, and to track an arm-driven target with their eyes. The dynamical conditions of arm movement were altered (unexpectedly or systematically) during the movement by changing the mechanical properties of the manipulandum. The results showed a significant change of the latency and the gain of the smooth pursuit system, before and after the perturbation for the control subjects, but not for the deafferented subject. Moreover, in control subjects, vibrations of the arm muscles prevented adaptation to the mechanical perturbation. These results suggest that in a self-moved target tracking task, the arm motor system shares with the smooth pursuit system an internal representation of the arm dynamical properties, and that arm proprioception is necessary to build this internal model. As suggested by Ghez et al. (1990) (Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol., 55: 837-8471), proprioception would allow control subjects to learn the inertial properties of the limb.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology