The curvature of human arm movements in the absence of visual experience

R. C. Miall*, P. N. Haggard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


It has been suggested that the spatial path of the hand is an important controlled feature of normal human arm movements and that the desired path is a straight line through external space. Recent experiments have suggested that distortions in visual perception of external space may lead to errors in its representation and thus influence the curvature of movements. The movements of blind and normal blind-folded subjects were therefore compared in a task requiring point-to-point hand movements in six directions across a horizontal worktop. Movement curvature varied with direction in both groups but was significantly higher for the blindfolded control subjects. Thus, the normals' distorted visual experience of straight lines in some orientations may lead them to make curved movement paths. The perception of curvature was also tested in the two groups in a task in which they traced the curved edge of a ruler. The blind group were slightly better at this task, although the difference was not significant. We conclude that visual experience influences point-to-point hand movements, leading to higher curvature for movements made in the fronto-parallel plane by sighted subjects due to visual distortions. These data therefore support the hypothesis that the spatial path followed by the hand is influenced by sensory inputs and is a controlled feature of human reaching movements. The data argue against the hypothesis that movement curvature is a result of optimising only the dynamics of the limb control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-428
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1995


  • Congenital blindness
  • Curvature perception
  • Human
  • Movement curvature
  • Trajectory control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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