Humans use continuous visual feedback from the hand to control fast reaching movements

Exp Brain Res. 2003 Oct;152(3):341-52. doi: 10.1007/s00221-003-1525-2. Epub 2003 Aug 6.


How visual feedback contributes to the on-line control of fast reaching movements is still a matter of considerable debate. Whether feedback is used continuously throughout movements or only in the "slow" end-phases of movements remains an open question. In order to resolve this question, we applied a perturbation technique to measure the influence of visual feedback from the hand at different times during reaching movements. Subjects reached to touch targets in a virtual 3D space, with visual feedback provided by a small virtual sphere that moved with a subject's fingertip. Small random perturbations were applied to the position of the virtual fingertip at two different points in the movement, either at 25% or 50% of the total movement extent. Despite the fact that subjects were unaware of the perturbations, their hand trajectories showed smooth and accurate corrections. Detectable responses were observed within an average of 160 ms after perturbations, and as early as 60% of the distance to the target. Response latencies were constant across different perturbation times and movement speed conditions, suggesting that a fixed sensori-motor delay is the limiting factor. The results provide direct evidence that the human brain uses visual feedback from the hand in a continuous fashion to guide fast reaching movements throughout their extent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Feedback, Psychological / physiology*
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*