Evidence for predictive control in lifting series of virtual objects

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Jun;203(2):447-52. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2249-8. Epub 2010 Apr 29.


The human motor control system gracefully behaves in a dynamic and time varying environment. Here, we explored the predictive capabilities of the motor system in a simple motor task of lifting a series of virtual objects. When a subject lifts an object, she/he uses an expectation of the weight of the object to generate a motor command. All models of motor learning employ learning algorithms that essentially expect the future to be similar to the previously experienced environment. In this study, we asked subjects to lift a series of increasing weights and determined whether they extrapolated from past experience and predicted the next weight in the series even though that weight had never been experienced. The grip force at the beginning of the lifting task is a clean indication of the motor expectation. In contrast to the motor learning literature asserting adaptation by means of expecting a weighted average based on past experience, our results suggest that the motor system is able to predict the subsequent weight that follows a series of increasing weights.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lifting*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Weight Perception / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*