Rhythmic movements are larger and faster but with the same frequency on removal of visual feedback. Academic Article uri icon


  • The brain controls rhythmic movement through neural circuits combining visual information with proprioceptive information from the limbs. Although rhythmic movements are fundamental to everyday activities the specific details of the responsible control mechanisms remain elusive. We tested 39 young adults who performed flexion/extension movements of the forearm. We provided them with explicit knowledge of the amplitude and the speed of their movements, whereas frequency information was only implicitly available. In a series of 3 experiments, we demonstrate a tighter control of frequency compared with amplitude or speed. We found that in the absence of visual feedback, movements had larger amplitude and higher peak speed while maintaining the same frequency as when visual feedback was available; this was the case even when participants were aware of performing overly large and fast movements. Finally, when participants were asked to modulate continuously movement frequency, but not amplitude, we found the local coefficient of variability of movement frequency to be lower than that of amplitude. We suggest that a misperception of the generated amplitude in the absence of visual feedback, coupled with a highly accurate perception of generated frequency, leads to the performance of larger and faster movements with the same frequency when visual feedback is not available. Relatively low local coefficient of variability of frequency in a task that calls for continuous change in movement frequency suggests that we tend to operate at a constant frequency at the expense of variation in amplitude and peak speed.

publication date

  • January 1, 2011