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We investigated whether a representation of a visual target can be stored in memory and used to support the online control of reaching movements. To distinguish between the use of a stored target representation for movement planning versus online control, we employed a novel movement environment in which participants could not fully plan their action in advance of movement initiation; that is, the spatial mapping between the movement of a computer mouse and the on-screen movement of a cursor was randomly varied from trial to trial. As such, participants were required to use online control to reach the target position. Reaches were examined in full-vision and three memory-dependent conditions (0, 2, and 5 s of delay). Absolute constant error did not accumulate between full-vision and brief delay trials (i.e., the 0-s delay), suggesting a stored representation of the visual target can be used for online control of reaching given a sufficiently brief delay interval. Longer delay trials (2 and 5 s) were less accurate and more variable than brief delay trials; however, the residual accuracy of these memory-dependent actions suggests that the motor system may have access to a stored representation of the visual target for online control processes for upwards of 5 s following target occlusion.
M. Heath is with the Department of Kinesiology and the Program in Neural Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47408. D.A. Westwood is with the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S., B3H 4R2, Canada.