Reaching for known unknowns: Rapid reach decisions accurately reflect the future state of dynamic probabilistic information

Cortex. 2021 May:138:253-265. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2021.02.010. Epub 2021 Feb 24.


Everyday tasks such as catching a ball appear effortless, but in fact require complex interactions and tight temporal coordination between the brain's visual and motor systems. What makes such interceptive actions particularly impressive is the capacity of the brain to account for temporal delays in the central nervous system-a limitation that can be mitigated by making predictions about the environment as well as one's own actions. Here, we wanted to assess how well human participants can plan an upcoming movement based on a dynamic, predictable stimulus that is not the target of action. A central stationary or rotating stimulus determined the probability that each of two potential targets would be the eventual target of a rapid reach-to-touch movement. We examined the extent to which reach movement trajectories convey internal predictions about the future state of dynamic probabilistic information conveyed by the rotating stimulus. We show that movement trajectories reflect the target probabilities determined at movement onset, suggesting that humans rapidly and accurately integrate visuospatial predictions and estimates of their own reaction times to effectively guide action.

Keywords: Motor control; Prediction; Probability; Reaching; Visuospatial attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Humans
  • Movement*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time