Effector mass and trajectory optimization in the online regulation of goal-directed movement
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Goal-directed aiming movements are planned and executed so that they optimize speed, accuracy and energy expenditure. In particular, the primary submovements involved in manual aiming attempts typically undershoot targets in order to avoid costly time and energy overshoot errors. Furthermore, in aiming movements performed over a series of trials, the movement planning process considers the sensory information associated with the most recent aiming attempt. The goal of the current study was to gain further insight into how the sensory consequences associated with the recent and forthcoming aiming attempts impact performance. We first examined whether performers are more conservative in their aiming movements with a heavy, as opposed to a light, stylus by determining whether primary submovements undershot the target to a greater extent in the former due to an anticipated increase in spatial variability. Our results show that movements with the heavy stylus demonstrated greater undershoot biases in the primary submovements, as well as greater trial-to-trial spatial variability at specific trajectory kinematic landmarks. In addition, we also sought to determine whether the sensory information experienced on a previous aiming movement affected movement planning and/or online control on the subsequent aiming attempt. To vary the type sensory consequences experienced on a trial-to-trial basis, participants performed aiming movements with light and heavy styli in either blocked or random orderings of trials. In the random-order conditions, some participants were provided advance information about stylus mass for the upcoming trial, while others were not. The blocked and random trial orders had minimal impacts on end point aiming performance. Furthermore, similarities in the times to key kinematic landmarks in the trajectories of the random-order groups suggest that recent trial experience had a greater effect on the upcoming aiming movement compared with advance task knowledge.