Force-field adaptation without proprioception: Can vision be used to model limb dynamics?


  • Sarlegna Fabrice R.
  • Malfait Nicole
  • Bringoux Lionel
  • Bourdin Christophe
  • Vercher Jean-Louis


  • Motor learning
  • Internal representation
  • Goal-directed arm movements
  • Reaching
  • Proprioceptive deafferentation
  • Sensory substitution

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Because our environment and our body can change from time to time, the efficiency of human motor behavior relies on the updating of the neural processes transforming intentions into actions. Adaptation to the context critically depends on sensory feedback such as vision, touch or hearing. Although proprioception is not commonly listed as one of the main senses, its role is determinant for the coordination of daily gestures like goal-directed arm movements. In particular, previous work suggests that proprioceptive information is critical to update the internal representation of limb dynamic properties. Here, we examined the motor behavior of a deafferented patient, deprived of proprioception below the nose, to assess adaptation to new dynamic conditions in the absence of limb proprioception. The patient, and age-matched control participants, reached toward visual targets in a new force field created by a rotating platform. Full vision of the limb and workspace was available throughout the experiment. Although her impairment was obvious in baseline reaching performance, the proprioceptively deafferented patient clearly adapted to the new force conditions. In fact, her time course of adaptation was similar to that observed in controls. Moreover, when tested in the normal force field after adaptation to the new force field, the patient exhibited after-effects similar to those of controls. These findings show that motor adaptation to a modified force field is possible without proprioception and that vision can compensate for the permanent loss of proprioception to update the central representation of limb dynamics.

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