Using arm configuration to learn the effects of gyroscopes and other devices

Martha Flanders, Jan M. Hondzinski, John F. Soechting, Jadin C. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Previous studies have perturbed the association between motor commands and arm movements by applying forces to the arm during two-dimensional movements. These studies have revealed that, when the normal hand path is perturbed, subjects gradually adapt their motor commands to return to this path. The present study used the spin of a gyroscope to create a complex perturbation, as subjects reached to targets presented in three dimensions. Hand path did not change, but the whole-arm geometry ("arm configuration" in four dimensions) was altered. Over a series of several hundred reaches to various targets, subjects gradually returned the arm movement to its normal configuration. Furthermore, during the course of this learning, subjects used a strategy that involved manipulating arm posture. A similar strategy was observed when subjects made reaching movements with a rod attached to the upper arm to change its inertial characteristics. In both cases, the gradual return to the normal arm movement was accomplished without an increase in kinetic energy, suggesting that arm postures and movements (kinematics) and muscular forces (kinetics) may be mutually optimized. In contrast to previous studies, the present results highlight the role of arm configuration (rather than hand path) in learning and control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-459
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


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