Goal-directed movements are executed under the permanent supervision of the central nervous system, which continuously processes sensory afferents and triggers on-line corrections if movement accuracy seems to be compromised. For arm reaching movements, visual information about the hand plays an important role in this supervision, notably improving reaching accuracy. Here, we tested whether visual feedback of the hand affects the latency of on-line responses to an external perturbation when reaching for a visual target. Two types of perturbation were used: visual perturbation consisted in changing the spatial location of the target and kinesthetic perturbation in applying a force step to the reaching arm. For both types of perturbation, the hand trajectory and the electromyographic (EMG) activity of shoulder muscles were analysed to assess whether visual feedback of the hand speeds up on-line corrections. Without visual feedback of the hand, on-line responses to visual perturbation exhibited the longest latency. This latency was reduced by about 10% when visual feedback of the hand was provided. On the other hand, the latency of on-line responses to kinesthetic perturbation was independent of the availability of visual feedback of the hand. In a control experiment, we tested the effect of visual feedback of the hand on visual and kinesthetic two-choice reaction times - for which coordinate transformation is not critical. Two-choice reaction times were never facilitated by visual feedback of the hand. Taken together, our results suggest that visual feedback of the hand speeds up on-line corrections when the position of the visual target with respect to the body must be re-computed during movement execution. This facilitation probably results from the possibility to map hand- and target-related information in a common visual reference frame.
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