Dynamic Multisensory Integration: Somatosensory Speed Trumps Visual Accuracy during Feedback Control

J Neurosci. 2016 Aug 17;36(33):8598-611. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0184-16.2016.


Recent advances in movement neuroscience have consistently highlighted that the nervous system performs sophisticated feedback control over very short time scales (<100 ms for upper limb). These observations raise the important question of how the nervous system processes multiple sources of sensory feedback in such short time intervals, given that temporal delays across sensory systems such as vision and proprioception differ by tens of milliseconds. Here we show that during feedback control, healthy humans use dynamic estimates of hand motion that rely almost exclusively on limb afferent feedback even when visual information about limb motion is available. We demonstrate that such reliance on the fastest sensory signal during movement is compatible with dynamic Bayesian estimation. These results suggest that the nervous system considers not only sensory variances but also temporal delays to perform optimal multisensory integration and feedback control in real-time.

Significance statement: Numerous studies have demonstrated that the nervous system combines redundant sensory signals according to their reliability. Although very powerful, this model does not consider how temporal delays may impact sensory reliability, which is an important issue for feedback control because different sensory systems are affected by different temporal delays. Here we show that the brain considers not only sensory variability but also temporal delays when integrating vision and proprioception following mechanical perturbations applied to the upper limb. Compatible with dynamic Bayesian estimation, our results unravel the importance of proprioception for feedback control as a consequence of the shorter temporal delays associated with this sensory modality.

Keywords: decision making; motor control; multisensory integration; state estimation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Young Adult