Sensorimotor representations for pointing to targets in three-dimensional space

J Neurophysiol. 1989 Aug;62(2):582-94. doi: 10.1152/jn.1989.62.2.582.


1. The accuracy with which subjects pointed to targets in extrapersonal space was assessed under a variety of experimental conditions. 2. When subjects pointed in the dark to remembered target locations, they made substantial errors. Errors in distance, measured from the shoulder to the target, were sometimes as much as 15 cm. Errors in direction, also measured from the shoulder, were smaller. 3. An analysis of the information transmitted by the location of the subject's finger about the location of the target showed that the information about the target's distance was consistently lower than the information about its direction. 4. The errors in distance persisted when subjects had their arm in view and pointed in the light to remembered target locations. 5. The errors were much smaller when subjects used a pointer to point to the target or when they were asked to reproduce the position of their finger after it had been passively moved to the target. 6. From these findings we conclude that subjects have a reasonably accurate visual representation of target location and are able to effectively use kinesthetically derived information about target location. We therefore suggest that errors in pointing result from errors in the sensorimotor transformation from the visual representation of the target location to the kinematic representation of the arm movement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Darkness
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior*