Parallel specification of competing sensorimotor control policies for alternative action options

Nat Neurosci. 2016 Feb;19(2):320-6. doi: 10.1038/nn.4214. Epub 2016 Jan 11.


Recent theory proposes that the brain, when confronted with several action possibilities, prepares multiple competing movements before deciding among them. Psychophysical supporting evidence for this idea comes from the observation that when reaching towards multiple potential targets, the initial movement is directed towards the average location of the targets, consistent with multiple prepared reaches being executed simultaneously. However, reach planning involves far more than specifying movement direction; it requires the specification of a sensorimotor control policy that sets feedback gains shaping how the motor system responds to errors induced by noise or external perturbations. Here we found that, when a subject is reaching towards multiple potential targets, the feedback gain corresponds to an average of the gains specified when reaching to each target presented alone. Our findings provide evidence that the brain, when presented with multiple action options, computes multiple competing sensorimotor control policies in parallel before implementing one of them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Noise / adverse effects
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Young Adult