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Exp Brain Res. 2012 Aug;221(1):33-41. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3144-2. Epub 2012 Jun 26.

Substituting auditory for visual feedback to adapt to altered dynamic and kinematic environments during reaching.

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  • 1Department of Management and Engineering, University of Padua, Via Venezia 1, 35135 Padua, Italy.


The arm movement control system often relies on visual feedback to drive motor adaptation and to help specify desired trajectories. Here we studied whether kinematic errors that were indicated with auditory feedback could be used to control reaching in a way comparable with when vision was available. We randomized twenty healthy adult subjects to receive either visual or auditory feedback of their movement trajectory error with respect to a line as they performed timed reaching movements while holding a robotic joystick. We delivered auditory feedback using spatialized pink noise, the loudness and location of which reflected kinematic error. After a baseline period, we unexpectedly perturbed the reaching trajectories using a perpendicular viscous force field applied by the joystick. Subjects adapted to the force field as well with auditory feedback as they did with visual feedback and exhibited comparable after effects when the force field was removed. When we changed the reference trajectory to be a trapezoid instead of a line, subjects shifted their trajectories by about the same amount with either auditory or visual feedback of error. These results indicate that arm motor networks can readily incorporate auditory feedback to alter internal models and desired trajectories, a finding with implications for the organization of the arm motor control adaptation system as well as sensory substitution and motor training technologies.

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