Visuomotor adaptation to a visual rotation is gravity dependent

Simone Toma, Alessandra Sciutti, Charalambos Papaxanthis, Thierry Pozzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Humans perform vertical and horizontal arm motions with different temporal patterns. The specific velocity profiles are chosen by the central nervous system by integrating the gravitational force field to minimize energy expenditure. However, what happens when a visuomotor rotation is applied, so that a motion performed in the horizontal plane is perceived as vertical? We investigated the dynamic of the adaptation of the spatial and temporal properties of a pointing motion during prolonged exposure to a 90° visuomotor rotation, where a horizontal movement was associated with a vertical visual feedback. We found that participants immediately adapted the spatial parameters of motion to the conflicting visual scene in order to keep their arm trajectory straight. In contrast, the initial symmetric velocity profiles specific for a horizontal motion were progressively modified during the conflict exposure, becoming more asymmetric and similar to those appropriate for a vertical motion. Importantly, this visual effect that increased with repetitions was not followed by a consistent aftereffect when the conflicting visual feedback was absent (catch and washout trials). In a control experiment we demonstrated that an intrinsic representation of the temporal structure of perceived vertical motions could provide the error signal allowing for this progressive adaptation of motion timing. These findings suggest that gravity strongly constrains motor learning and the reweighting process between visual and proprioceptive sensory inputs, leading to the selection of a motor plan that is suboptimal in terms of energy expenditure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1885-1895
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Internal model of gravity
  • Motor planning
  • Sensorimotor adaptation
  • Visual vertical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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