Unexpected small perturbations during reaching movements are normally compensated for automatically. Previous studies of such perturbations observed that the movement trajectory converges back to the preplanned end position. The question remains whether peripheral mechanisms formed by intrinsic muscle properties and stretch reflex are efficient for compensating for such perturbations. Even though this is suggested by a threshold position control model highlighting the role of peripheral mechanisms under central control in movement generation, it is neither developed nor extensively tested for this capability. The present study tests how this model can account for the compensation during single-joint fast reaching. Motor responses to transient, unpredictable, small perturbations at different movement phases were measured and compared with the model predictions. The results show good agreement concerning kinematic and dynamic responses. Simulations with altered mechanical parameters of the model suggest that reflexive responses are well tuned to the intrinsic muscle properties. We conclude that under central control, peripheral mechanisms cope efficiently with small transient perturbations.
The authors are with the Department of Neurology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany.