When reaching towards an object while standing, one's hand responds very quickly to visual perturbations such as the target being displaced or the background moving. Such responses require postural adjustments. When the background moves, its motion might be attributed to self-motion in a stable world, and thereby induce compensatory postural adjustments that affect the hand. The changes in posture associated with a given hand movement response may, therefore, be different for the two types of perturbations. To see whether they are, we asked standing participants to move their hand in the sagittal direction away from their body to targets displayed on a horizontal screen in front of them. The target displacements and background motion were in the lateral direction. We found hand movement responses that were in line with earlier reports, with a latency that was slightly shorter for target displacements than for background motion, and that was independent of target displacement size or background motion speed. The trunk responded to both perturbations with a modest lateral sway. The two main findings were that the upper trunk responded even before the hand did so and that the head responded to background motion but hardly responded to target displacements. These findings suggest that postural adjustments associated with adjusting the hand movement precede the actual adjustments to the movement of the hand, while at the same time, participants try to keep their head stable on the basis of visual information.
Keywords: Arm reaching; Background motion; Postural control; Target jump; Two-step paradigm; Visual perturbation.