Hand-eye coordination for rapid pointing movements
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Visually guided arm movements such as reaching or pointing are accompanied by saccadic eye movements that typically begin prior to motion of the arm. In the past, some degree of coupling between the oculomotor and limb motor systems has been demonstrated by assessing the relative onset times of eye and arm movement, and by the demonstration of a gap effect for arm movement reaction times. However, measures of limb movement onset time based on kinematics are affected by factors such as the relatively high inertia of the limb and neuromechanical delays. The goal of the present study was thus to assess the relative timing of rapid eye and arm movements made to visual targets by examining electromyographic (EMG) activity of limb muscles in conjunction with eye and arm position measures. The observation of a positive correlation between eye and limb EMG onset latencies, and the presence of a gap effect for limb EMG onset times (a reduction in reaction time when a temporal gap is introduced between the disappearance of a central fixation point and the appearance of a new target) both support the idea that eye and arm movement initiation are linked. However, limb EMG onset in most cases precedes saccade onset, and the magnitude of EMG activity prior to eye movement is correlated with both the direction and amplitude of the upcoming arm movement. This suggests that, for the rapid movements studied here, arm movement direction and distance are specified prior to the onset of saccades.
KeywordsEye-hand coordination Saccades Pointing Gap effect Reaction time Movement planning Human
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