Influence of head orientation on visually and memory-guided arm movements.

  • Guerraz Michel
  • Caudron Sébastien
  • Thomassin Noémylle
  • Blouin Jean


In the absence of visual supervision, tilting the head sideways gives rise to deviations in spatially defined arm movements. The purpose of this study was to determine whether these deviations are restricted to situations with impoverished visual information. Two experiments were conducted in which participants were positioned supine and reproduced with their unseen index finger a 2 dimensional figure either under visual supervision or from memory (eyes closed). In the former condition, the figure remained visible (using a mirror). In the latter condition, the figure was first observed and then reproduced from memory. Participants' head was either aligned with the trunk or tilted 30° towards the left or right shoulder. In experiment 1, participants observed first the figure with the head straight and then reproduced it with the head either aligned or tilted sideways. In Experiment 2, participants observed the figure with the head in the position in which the figure was later reproduced. Results of Experiment 1 and 2 showed deviations of the motor reproduction in the direction opposite to the head in both the memory and visually-guided conditions. However, the deviations decreased significantly under visual supervision when the head was tilted left. In Experiment 1, the perceptual visual bias induced by head tilt was evaluated. Participants were required to align the figure parallel to their median trunk axis. Results revealed that the figure was perceived as parallel with the trunk when it was actually tilted in the direction of the head. Perceptual and motor responses did not correlate. Therefore, as long as visual feedback of the arm is prevented, an internal bias, likely originating from head/trunk representation, alters hand-motor production irrespectively of whether visual feedback of the figure is available or not.