Movement planning consists in choosing the intended endpoint of the movement and selecting the motor program that will bring the effector on the endpoint. It is widely accepted that movement endpoint is updated on a trial-by-trial basis with respect to the observed errors and that the motor program for a given movement follows the rules of optimal feedback control. Here, we show clear limitations of these theories. First, participants could not tune their motor program appropriately for each individual trial. This was true even when the participants selected the width of the target that they reached toward or when they had learned the appropriate motor program previously. These data are compatible with the existence of a switching cost for motor planning, which relates to the drop of performance due to an imposed switch of motor programs. This cost of switching shares many features of costs reported in cognitive task switching experiments and, when tested in the same participants, was correlated with it. Second, we found that randomly changing the width of a target over the course of a reaching experiment prevents the motor system from updating the endpoint of movements on the basis of the performance on the previous trial if the width of the target has changed. These results provide new insights into the process of motor planning and how it relates to optimal control theory and to an action selection based on the reward consequences of the motor program rather than based on the observed error.
- motor control
- motor planning
- optimal control
- switching cost
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Neurophysiology