Forward models of inertial loads in weightlessness

Neuroscience. 2009 Jun 30;161(2):589-98. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.03.025. Epub 2009 Mar 20.


In this experiment, we investigated whether the CNS uses internal forward models of inertial loads to maintain the stability of a precision grip when manipulating objects in the absence of gravity. The micro-gravity condition causes profound changes in the profile of tangential constraints at the finger-object interface. In order to assess the ability to predict the micro-gravity-specific variation of inertial loads, we analyzed the grip force adjustments that occurred when naive subjects held an object in a precision grip and performed point-to-point movements under the weightless condition induced by parabolic flight. Such movements typically presented static and dynamic phases, which permitted distinction between a static component of the grip force (measured before the movement) and a dynamic component of the grip force (measured during the movement). The static component tended to gradually decrease across the parabolas, whereas the dynamic component was rapidly modulated with the micro-gravity-specific inertial loads. In addition, the amplitude of the modulation significantly correlated with the amplitude of the tangential constraints for the dynamic component. These results strongly support the hypothesis that the internal representation of arm and object dynamics adapts to new gravitational contexts. In addition, the difference in time scales of adaptation of static and dynamic components suggests that they can be processed independently. The prediction of self-induced variation of inertial loads permits fine modulation of grip force, which ensures a stable grip during manipulation of an object in a new environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement*
  • Time Factors
  • Weight-Bearing*
  • Weightlessness*
  • Young Adult