Reaching movements to a target usually have stereotypical kinematics. Although this suggests that the desired kinematics of a movement might be planned, does it also mean that deviations from the planned kinematics are corrected by proprioceptive feedback control? To answer this question, we designed a task in which the subjects made center-forward movements to a target while holding the handle of a robot. Subjects were instructed to make movements at a peak velocity of 1 m/s. No further instructions were given with respect to the movement trajectory or the velocity time profile. In randomly chosen trials the robot imposed servo-controlled deviations from the previously computed unperturbed velocity and position time profiles. The duration of the velocity deviations and the magnitude of accumulated position deviations were manipulated. The subjects were instructed to either "Attempt to correct" or "Do not correct" the movement. The responses to the imposed deviations in the surface electromyograms in the elbow and shoulder agonist muscles consisted of an initial burst followed by a sharp decrease in the "Do not correct" condition or by sustained activity in the "Attempt to correct" condition. The timing and magnitude of the initial response burst reflected those of the velocity deviations and were not affected by the instruction. The timing and magnitude of the late response activity reflected position feedback control and were strongly affected by the instruction. We suggest that proprioceptive feedback control is suppressed in the beginning of the movement, then velocity feedback control is activated in the middle of the movement to control a desired velocity, whereas position feedback control is facilitated late in the movement to acquire the final position.
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