1. The aim of this study was to determine how vision of a cursor indicating hand position on a computer screen or vision of the limb itself improves the accuracy of reaching movements in patients deprived of limb proprioception due to large-fiber sensory neuropathy. In particular, we wished to ascertain the contribution of such information to improved planning rather than to feedback corrections. We analyzed spatial errors and hand trajectories of reaching movements made by subjects moving a hand-held cursor on a digitizing tablet while viewing targets displayed on a computer screen. The errors made when movements were performed without vision of their arm or of a screen cursor were compared with errors made when this information was available concurrently or prior to movement. 2. Both monitoring the screen cursor and seeing their limb in peripheral vision during movement improved the accuracy of the patients' movements. Improvements produced by seeing the cursor during movement are attributable simply to feedback corrections. However, because the target was not present in the actual workspace, improvements associated with vision of the limb must involve more complex corrective mechanisms. 3. Significant improvements in performance also occurred in trials without vision that were performed after viewing the limb at rest or during movements. In particular, prior vision of the limb in motion improved the ability of patients to vary the duration of movements in different directions so as to compensate for the inertial anisotropy of the limb. In addition, there were significant reductions in directional errors, path curvature, and late secondary movements. Comparable improvements in extent, direction, and curvature were produced when subjects could see the screen cursor during alternate movements to targets in different directions. 4. The effects of viewing the limb were transient and decayed during a period of minutes once vision of the limb was no longer available. 5. It is proposed that the improvements in performance produced after vision of the limb were mediated by the visual updating of internal models of the limb. Vision of the limb at rest may provide configuration information while vision of the limb in motion provides additional dynamic information. Vision of the cursor and the resulting ability to correct ongoing movements, however, is considered primarily to provide information about the dynamic properties of the limb and its response to neural commands.
- Copyright © 1995 the American Physiological Society