Sensori-motor adaptation to novel limb dynamics influences the representation of peripersonal space

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


Peripersonal space can be considered as the interface between the body and the environment, where objects can be reached and which may serve as a reference for the central nervous system with regard to possible actions. Peripersonal space can be studied by assessing the perception of the reachable space, which depends on the body's physical characteristics (i.e., arm length) since their modifications have been shown to be associated with a change in peripersonal space representation. However, it remains unclear whether the representation of limb dynamics also influences the representation of peripersonal space. The present study investigated this issue by perturbing the force-field environment. A novel force field was created by rotating an experimental platform where participants were seated while they reached towards visual targets. Manual reaching performance was assessed before, during and after platform rotation. Crucially, perception of peripersonal space was also assessed, with reachability judgments, before and after platform rotation. As expected, sensori-motor adaptation to the perturbed force field was observed. Our principal finding is that peripersonal space was systematically perceived as closer to the body after force-field adaptation. Two control experiments showed no significant difference in reachability judgments when no reaching movements were performed during platform rotation or when reaching movements were performed without platform rotation, suggesting that the change in perceived peripersonal space resulted from exposure to new limb dynamics. Overall, our findings show that sensori-motor adaptation of reaching movements to a new force field, which does not directly influence arm length but results in the updating of the arm's internal model of limb dynamics, interacts with the perceptual categorisation of space, supporting a motor contribution to the representation of peripersonal space.