Skilled reaching in rats and humans: evidence for parallel development or homology

Behav Brain Res. 1992 Mar 15;47(1):59-70. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(05)80252-9.


Forelimb reaching by the rat is used as a paradigm for the experimental study of neural control, plasticity, and recovery of function after injury, in the expectation that results are generalizable to humans. The present study was done to compare rat to human reaching movements. The movements of both species were videorecorded and subjected to frame-by-frame analysis using Cartesian (spatial and velocity) and Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation (EWMN) systems. The component movements of reaching, their sequence and velocity profiles, and their topography were similar in the two species. Both species also displayed more supination and lengthened grasping times when reaching for small as opposed to large objects. Both rats and humans moved the limb medially using the upper arm to aim it when they were required to reach through an aperture but in a free reaching test only rats continued to aim the limb. Human movements were characterized by greater blending of movement components, more variability, and independent digit use. Arguments are presented that the similarities and differences in rat and human reaching are not trivially accounted for by limb and task similarities. The many similarities in the movements of the two species provide evidence for at least parallel development or perhaps even homology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Attention*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Distance Perception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills
  • Orientation*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time
  • Size Perception
  • Species Specificity