Initiation of rapid reach-and-grasp balance reactions: is a pre-formed visuospatial map used in controlling the initial arm trajectory?

Exp Brain Res. 2004 Apr;155(4):532-6. doi: 10.1007/s00221-004-1855-8. Epub 2004 Feb 24.


In order to recover balance by grasping an object for support, the CNS must rapidly move the hand toward a specific target (handhold) in the environment. The early latency (80-140 ms) of these grasping reactions would seem to preclude a role for online visual feedback in the control of the initial limb movement; however, some studies have shown that vision can influence initiation of lower-limb postural reactions at similar latency. This study explored the role of vision in controlling the initial trajectory of grasping reactions triggered by sudden unpredictable medio-lateral platform translation. Healthy young adults were instructed to recover balance by grasping a marked section of a handrail, located to their right. To reinforce a dependence on arm reactions, movement of the feet was prevented by barriers. Liquid-crystal goggles were used to occlude vision during response initiation (200 ms interval starting at perturbation onset, PO). Results showed that the initial grasping trajectory (first 100 ms) and associated muscle activation were heavily modulated to take into account the direction and speed of the perturbation-induced body motion in relation to the handrail. This modulation was unaffected by occlusion of vision at PO, indicating that information about the rail location obtained prior to PO was incorporated into the control. These findings are consistent with the view that the CNS tunes the initial arm trajectory by combining an egocentric spatial map, formed prior to PO, with online feedback about the body motion from non-visual inputs (somatosensory and/or vestibular). This prevents potential delays associated with visual processing and ensures very rapid onset of arm movement that is directed appropriately even though the position of the body is perturbed unpredictably with respect to the target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Female
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Posture / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*