On the Auditory-Proprioception Substitution Hypothesis: Movement Sonification in Two Deafferented Subjects Learning to Write New Characters

  • Danna Jérémy
  • Velay Jean-Luc

  • Proprioception
  • Real-time auditory feedback
  • Sonification
  • Compensation
  • Handwriting
  • Motor control


The aim of this study was to evaluate the compensatory effects of real-time auditory feedback on two proprioceptively deafferented subjects. The real-time auditory feedback was based on a movement sonification approach, consisting of translating some movement variables into synthetic sounds to make them audible. The two deafferented subjects and 16 age-matched control participants were asked to learn four new characters. The characters were learned under two different conditions, one without sonification and one with sonification, respecting a within-subject protocol. The results revealed that characters learned with sonification were reproduced more quickly and more fluently than characters learned without and that the effects of sonification were larger in deafferented than in control subjects. Secondly, whereas control subjects were able to learn the characters without sounds the deafferented subjects were able to learn them only when they were trained with sonification. Thirdly, although the improvement was still present in controls, the performance of deafferented subjects came back to the pre-test level 2 h after the training with sounds. Finally, the two deafferented subjects performed differently from each other, highlighting the importance of studying at least two subjects to better understand the loss of proprioception and its impact on motor control and learning. To conclude, movement sonification may compensate for a lack of proprioception, supporting the auditory-proprioception substitution hypothesis. However, sonification would act as a " sensory prosthesis " helping deafferented subjects to better feel their movements, without permanently modifying their motor performance once the prosthesis is removed. Potential clinical applications for motor rehabilitation are numerous: people with a limb prosthesis, with a stroke, or with some peripheral nerve injury may potentially be interested.