Brain activity during predictable and unpredictable weight changes when lifting objects

J Neurophysiol. 2005 Mar;93(3):1498-509. doi: 10.1152/jn.00230.2004. Epub 2004 Sep 22.


When humans repetitively lift the same object, the fingertip forces are targeted to the weight of the object. The anticipatory programming of the forces depends on sensorimotor memory representations that provide information on the object weight. In the present study, we investigate the neural substrates of these sensorimotor memory systems by recording the neural activity during predictable or unpredictable changes in the weight of an object in a lifting task. An unpredictable change in weight leads to erroneous programming of the fingertip forces. This triggers corrective mechanisms and an update of the sensorimotor memories. In the present fMRI study, healthy right-handed subjects repetitively lifted an object between right index finger and thumb. In the constant condition, which served as a control, the weight of the object remained constant (either 230 or 830 g). The weight alternated between 230 and 830 g during the regular condition and was irregularly changed between the two weights during the irregular condition. When we contrasted regular minus constant and irregular minus constant, we found activations in the right inferior frontal gyrus pars opercularis (area 44), the left parietal operculum and the right supramarginal gyrus. Furthermore, irregular was associated with stronger activation in the right inferior frontal cortex as compared with regular. Taken together, these results suggest that the updating of sensorimotor memory representations and the corrective reactions that occur when we manipulate different objects correspond to changes in synaptic activity in these fronto-parietal circuits.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Lifting*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Weight Perception / physiology*


  • Oxygen