December 3, 2020

Proprioceptive afferents differentially contribute to effortful perception of object heaviness and mass distribution

When humans handle a tool, such as a tennis racket or hammer, for the first time, they often wield it to determine its inertial properties, however, the mechanisms that contribute to perception of inertial properties are not fully understood. The goal of the present study was to investigate how proprioceptive afferents contribute to effortful perception of heaviness and mass distribution of a manually wielded object in the absence of vision. Blindfolded participants manually wielded a set of specially-designed experimental objects of different mass and mass distribution about the wrist at different wrist angles and wrist angular kinematics. By independently manipulating these variables, we aimed to elicit different levels of tonic and rhythmic activity in the muscle spindles of the wrist flexors and extensors and relate them to reported perceptual judgments of heaviness and length. Perception of heaviness and length were predominantly dependent on an object’s static moment and the moment of inertia, respectively. Manipulations of wrist angle and wrist angular kinematics affected perceptual judgments of heaviness and length in relatively opposite ways. As for wrist angle, ulnar deviation consistently resulted in an object being perceived heavier but shorter. Compared to static holding, wielding the object resulted in it being perceived heavier but wielding did not affect perceived length. These results suggest that proprioceptive afferents differentially contribute to effortful perception of object heaviness and mass distribution.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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