Representations of Uncertainty in Sensorimotor Control

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2011 Aug;21(4):629-35. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.05.026.


Uncertainty is ubiquitous in our sensorimotor interactions, arising from factors such as sensory and motor noise and ambiguity about the environment. Setting it apart from previous theories, a quintessential property of the Bayesian framework for making inference about the state of world so as to select actions, is the requirement to represent the uncertainty associated with inferences in the form of probability distributions. In the context of sensorimotor control and learning, the Bayesian framework suggests that to respond optimally to environmental stimuli the central nervous system needs to construct estimates of the sensorimotor transformations, in the form of internal models, as well as represent the structure of the uncertainty in the inputs, outputs and in the transformations themselves. Here we review Bayesian inference and learning models that have been successful in demonstrating the sensitivity of the sensorimotor system to different forms of uncertainty as well as recent studies aimed at characterizing the representation of the uncertainty at different computational levels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Uncertainty*