Opposing force fields induce direction-specific sensorimotor adaptation but a non-specific perceptual shift consistent with a contraction of peripersonal space representation

  • Leclere Nicolas
  • Sarlegna F
  • Coello Yann
  • Bourdin Christophe

  • Motor control
  • Force-field adaptation
  • Manual reaching
  • Reachability judgment
  • Peripersonal space representation


Most of our daily interactions with objects occur in the space immediately surrounding the body, i.e. the peripersonal space. The peripersonal space is characterized by multisensory processing of objects which are coded in terms of potential actions, specifying for instance whether objects are within reach or not. Our recent work suggested a link between exposure to a new force field, which changed the effector dynamics, and the representation of peripersonal space. To better understand the interplay between the plasticity of the motor system and peripersonal space representation, the present study examined whether changing the direction of the force field specifically modified the perception of action boundaries. Participants seated at the centre of an experimental platform estimated visual targets’ reachability before and after adapting upper-limb reaching movements to the Coriolis force generated by either clockwise or counter clockwise rotation of the platform (120°/s). Opposite spatial after-effects were observed, showing that force-field adaptation depends on the direction of the rotation. In contrast, perceived action boundaries shifted leftward following exposure to the new force field, regardless of the direction of the rotation. Overall, these findings support the idea that abrupt exposure to a new force field results in a direction-specific updating of the central sensorimotor representations underlying the control of arm movements. Abrupt exposure to a new force field also results in a nonspecific shift in the perception of action boundaries, which is consistent with a contraction of the peripersonal space. Such effect, which does not appear to be related to state anxiety, could be related to the protective role of the peripersonal space in response to the uncertainty of the sensorimotor system induced by the abrupt modification of the environment.