Do we use a priori knowledge of gravity when making elbow rotations?

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    In this study, we aim to investigate whether motor commands, emanating from movement planning, are customized to movement orientation relative to gravity from the first trial on. Participants made fast point-to-point elbow flexions and extensions in the transverse plane. We compared movements that had been practiced in reclined orientation either against or with gravity with the same movement relative to the body axis made in the upright orientation (neutral compared to gravity). For each movement type, five rotations from reclined to upright orientation were made. For each rotation, we analyzed the first trial in upright orientation and the directly preceding trial in reclined orientation. Additionally, we analyzed the last five trials of a 30-trial block in upright position and compared these trials with the first trials in upright orientation. Although participants moved fast, gravitational torques were substantial. The change in body orientation affected movement planning: we found a decrease in peak angular velocity and a decrease in amplitude for the first trials made in the upright orientation, regardless of whether the previous movements in reclined orientation were made against or with gravity. We found that these decreases disappeared after participants familiarized themselves with moving in upright position in a 30-trial block. These results indicate that participants used a general strategy, corresponding to the strategy observed in situations with unreliable or limited information on external conditions. From this, we conclude that during movement planning, a priori knowledge of gravity was not used to specifically customize motor commands for the neutral gravity condition. © The Author(s) 2011.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)163-173
    JournalExperimental Brain Research
    Early online date29 Dec 2011
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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