Done in 100 ms: path-dependent visuomotor transformation in the human upper limb

J Neurophysiol. 2018 Apr 1;119(4):1319-1328. doi: 10.1152/jn.00839.2017. Epub 2017 Dec 6.


A core assumption underlying mental chronometry is that more complex tasks increase cortical processing, prolonging reaction times. In this study we show that increases in task complexity alter the magnitude, rather than the latency, of the output for a circuit that rapidly transforms visual information into motor actions. We quantified visual stimulus-locked responses (SLRs), which are changes in upper limb muscle recruitment that evolve at a fixed latency ~100 ms after novel visual stimulus onset. First, we studied the underlying reference frame of the SLR by dissociating the initial eye and hand position. Despite its quick latency, we found that the SLR was expressed in a hand-centric reference frame, suggesting that the circuit mediating the SLR integrated retinotopic visual information with body configuration. Next, we studied the influence of planned movement trajectory, requiring participants to prepare and generate either curved or straight reaches in the presence of obstacles to attain the same visual stimulus location. We found that SLR magnitude was influenced by the planned movement trajectory to the same visual stimulus. On the basis of these results, we suggest that the circuit mediating the SLR lies in parallel to other well-studied corticospinal pathways. Although the fixed latency of the SLR precludes extensive cortical processing, inputs conveying information relating to task complexity, such as body configuration and planned movement trajectory, can preset nodes within the circuit underlying the SLR to modulate its magnitude. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We studied stimulus-locked responses (SLRs), which are changes in human upper limb muscle recruitment that evolve at a fixed latency ~100 ms after novel visual stimulus onset. We showed that despite its quick latency, the circuitry mediating the SLR transformed a retinotopic visual signal into a hand-centric motor command that is modulated by the planned movement trajectory. We suggest that the circuit generating the SLR is mediated through a tectoreticulospinal, rather than a corticospinal, pathway.

Keywords: hand-eye coordination; human reaching movement; movement planning; trajectory; visual response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Electrooculography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult

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