To accurately estimate the state of the body, the nervous system needs to account for delays between signals from different sensory modalities. To investigate how such delays may be represented in the sensorimotor system, we asked human participants to play a virtual pong game in which the movement of the virtual paddle was delayed with respect to their hand movement. We tested the representation of this new mapping between the hand and the delayed paddle by examining transfer of adaptation to blind reaching and blind tracking tasks. These blind tasks enabled to capture the representation in feedforward mechanisms of movement control. A Time Representation of the delay is an estimation of the actual time lag between hand and paddle movements. A State Representation is a representation of delay using current state variables: the distance between the paddle and the ball originating from the delay may be considered as a spatial shift; the low sensitivity in the response of the paddle may be interpreted as a minifying gain; and the lag may be attributed to a mechanical resistance that influences paddle’s movement. We found that the effects of prolonged exposure to the delayed feedback transferred to blind reaching and tracking tasks and caused participants to exhibit hypermetric movements. These results, together with simulations of our representation models, suggest that delay is not represented based on time, but rather as a spatial gain change in visuomotor mapping.
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