Limited Contribution of Primary Motor Cortex in Eye-Hand Coordination: A TMS Study

  • Mathew James
  • Eusebio Alexandre
  • Danion Frederic S

  • Smooth pursuit
  • Prediction
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Internal models
  • Hand-target mappings
  • Target occlusion
  • Haptic feedback
  • Efference copy
  • Eye tracking
  • Primary motor cortex
  • TMS


Previous studies on smooth pursuit eye movements have shown that humans can continue to track the position of their hand, or a target controlled by the hand, after it is occluded, thereby demonstrating that arm motor commands contribute to the prediction of target motion driving pursuit eye movements. Here, we investigated this predictive mechanism by manipulating both the complexity of the hand-target mapping and the provision of haptic feedback. Two hand-target mappings were used, either a rigid (simple) one in which hand and target motion matched perfectly or a nonrigid (complex) one in which the target behaved as a mass attached to the hand by means of a spring. Target animation was obtained by asking participants to oscillate a lightweight robotic device that provided (or not) haptic feedback consistent with the target dynamics. Results showed that as long as 7 s after target occlusion, smooth pursuit continued to be the main contributor to total eye displacement (60%). However, the accuracy of eye-tracking varied substantially across experimental conditions. In general, eye-tracking was less accurate under the nonrigid mapping, as reflected by higher positional and velocity errors. Interestingly, haptic feedback helped to reduce the detrimental effects of target occlusion when participants used the nonrigid mapping, but not when they used the rigid one. Overall, we conclude that the ability to maintain smooth pursuit in the absence of visual information can extend to complex hand-target mappings, but the provision of haptic feedback is critical for the maintenance of accurate eye-tracking performance.