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Keywords:

  • motor control;
  • goal-directed movement;
  • impulse-variability theory;
  • posture;
  • vestibular system

Abstract

Errors in pointing to remembered target locations were measured in normal subjects in the upright posture and in a supine or prone lying position, three conditions that differed in the orientation of the moving arm with respect to gravity. Vertical errors, or, more strictly, errors along the body axis, were significantly larger in both supine and prone lying positions as compared with the vertical posture. Subjects’ orientation with respect to gravity produced a consistent error pattern, i.e. subjects pointed below the remembered target locations in the vertical posture and above them under the two lying conditions, in the body-related co-ordinates. On the contrary, variable error (the confidence ellipse) was differentially affected by the orientation of the movement trajectory with respect to gravity. In the supine body position the variable error was larger, and in the prone position it was smaller than in the upright posture. The finding of gravity-related bias in pointing errors suggests that the motor programme generated in the lying position is not modified to adapt to an altered orientation with respect to gravity.