Separate Adaptive Mechanisms for Controlling Trajectory and Final Position in Reaching

Document Type




Format of Original

14 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Neurophysiology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1152/jn.00121.2007


We examined control of the hand's trajectory (direction and shape) and final equilibrium position in horizontal planar arm movements by quantifying transfer of learned visuomotor rotations between two tasks that required aiming the hand to the same spatial targets. In a trajectory-reversal task (“slicing”), the hand reversed direction within the target and returned to the origin. In a positioning task (“reaching”), subjects moved the hand to the target and held it there; cursor feedback was provided only after movement ended to isolate learning of final position from trajectory direction. We asked whether learning acquired in one task would transfer to the other. Transfer would suggest that the hand's entire trajectory, including its endpoint, was controlled using a common spatial plan. Instead we found minimal transfer, suggesting that the brain used different representations of target position to specify the hand's initial trajectory and its final stabilized position. We also observed asymmetrical practice effects on hand trajectory, including systematic curvature of reaches made after rotation training and hypermetria of untrained slice reversals after reach training. These are difficult to explain with a unified control model, but were replicated in computer simulations that specified the hand's initial trajectory and its final equilibrium position. Our results suggest that the brain uses different mechanisms to plan the hand's initial trajectory and final position in point-to-point movements, that it implements these control actions sequentially, and that trajectory planning does not account for specific impedance values to be implemented about the final stabilized posture.


Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 98, No. 6 (December 1, 2007): 3600-3613. DOI.