A real-time state predictor in motor control: Study of saccadic eye movements during unseen reaching movements Academic Article uri icon


  • Theoretical motor control predicts that because of delays in sensorimotor pathways, a neural system should exist in the brain that uses efferent copy of commands to the arm, sensory feedback, and an internal model of the dynamics of the arm to predict the future state of the hand (i.e., a forward model). We tested this theory under the hypothesis that saccadic eye movements, tracking an unseen reaching movement, would reflect the output of this state predictor. We found that in unperturbed reaching movements, saccade occurrence at any time t consistently provided an unbiased estimate of hand position at t + 196 msec. To investigate the behavior of this predictor during feedback error control, we applied 50 msec random-force perturbations to the moving hand. Saccades showed a sharp inhibition at 100 msec after perturbation. At approximately 170 msec, there was a sharp increase in saccade probabilities. These postperturbation saccades were an unbiased estimator of hand position at saccade time t + 150 msec. The ability of the brain to guide saccades to the future position of the hand failed when a force field unexpectedly changed the dynamics of the hand immediately after perturbation. The behavior of the eyes suggested that during reaching movements, the brain computes an estimate of future hand position based on an internal model that relies on real-time proprioceptive feedback. When an error occurs in reaching movements, the estimate of future hand position is recomputed. The saccade inhibition period that follows the hand perturbation may indicate the length of time it takes for this computation to take place.

publication date

  • January 1, 2002