Fast corrective responses are evoked by perturbations approaching the natural variability of posture and movement tasks

J Neurophysiol. 2012 May;107(10):2821-32. doi: 10.1152/jn.00849.2011. Epub 2012 Feb 22.


A wealth of studies highlight the importance of rapid corrective responses during voluntary motor tasks. These studies used relatively large perturbations to evoke robust muscle activity. Thus it remains unknown whether these corrective responses (latency 20-100 ms) are evoked at perturbation levels approaching the inherent variability of voluntary control. To fill this gap, we examined responses for large to small perturbations applied while participants either performed postural or reaching tasks. To address multijoint corrective responses, we induced various amounts of single-joint elbow motion with scaled amounts of combined elbow and shoulder torques. Indeed, such perturbations are known to elicit a response at the unstretched shoulder muscle, which reflects an internal model of arm intersegmental dynamics. Significant muscle responses were observed during both postural control and reaching, even when perturbation-related joint angle, velocity, and acceleration overlapped in distribution with deviations encountered in unperturbed trials. The response onsets were consistent across the explored range of perturbation loads, with short-latency onset for the muscles spanning the elbow joints (20-40 ms), and long-latency for shoulder muscles (onset > 45 ms). In addition, the evoked activity was strongly modulated by perturbation magnitude. These results suggest that multijoint responses are not specifically engaged to counter motor errors that exceed a certain threshold. Instead, we suggest that these corrective processes operate continuously during voluntary motor control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Elbow / physiology
  • Elbow Joint / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Shoulder / physiology
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology
  • Torque