Sensorimotor adaptation to inertial forces in a multi-force environment does not depend on the number of targets: indirect validation of the altered-proprioception hypothesis.

  • Bourdin C.
  • Bock O.


The ability of our sensorimotor system to adapt to changing and complex environmental demands has been under experimental scrutiny for more than a century. Previous works have shown that aimed arm movements adapt quickly and completely to Coriolis force, but incompletely to the combination of Coriolis and centrifugal forces without visual cues. Two hypotheses may be advanced to explain this discrepancy: the workspace-exploration hypothesis, and the degraded-proprioception hypothesis. The aim of this study was to distinguish between the above two alternatives by comparing adaptive improvement during off-axis rotation in subjects pointing at one, three or seven different targets in complete darkness. Two main results emerge: (a) off-axis rotation led initially to errors in the direction of Coriolis force and in the opposite direction of the centrifugal force; (b) the size of the visited workspace has no effect on the way the subjects adapt to a multi-force environment. The lack of a target-number effect and the persistence of lateral errors in the pointing movements performed during rotation of the platform, support the degraded-proprioception rather than the workspace-exploration hypothesis of adaptation to a multi-force environment.