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      Sensorimotor adaptation of point-to-point arm movements after spaceflight: the role of internal representation of gravity force in trajectory planning.

      Journal of Neurophysiology
      Adaptation, Physiological, physiology, Adult, Arm, Astronauts, Female, Gravitation, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Movement, Psychomotor Performance, Space Flight, methods, Weightlessness

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          After an exposure to weightlessness, the central nervous system operates under new dynamic and sensory contexts. To find optimal solutions for rapid adaptation, cosmonauts have to decide whether parameters from the world or their body have changed and to estimate their properties. Here, we investigated sensorimotor adaptation after a spaceflight of 10 days. Five cosmonauts performed forward point-to-point arm movements in the sagittal plane 40 days before and 24 and 72 h after the spaceflight. We found that, whereas the shape of hand velocity profiles remained unaffected after the spaceflight, hand path curvature significantly increased 1 day after landing and returned to the preflight level on the third day. Control experiments, carried out by 10 subjects under normal gravity conditions, showed that loading the arm with varying loads (from 0.3 to 1.350 kg) did not affect path curvature. Therefore, changes in path curvature after spaceflight cannot be the outcome of a control process based on the subjective feeling that arm inertia was increased. By performing optimal control simulations, we found that arm kinematics after exposure to microgravity corresponded to a planning process that overestimated the gravity level and optimized movements in a hypergravity environment (∼1.4 g). With time and practice, the sensorimotor system was recalibrated to Earth's gravity conditions, and cosmonauts progressively generated accurate estimations of the body state, gravity level, and sensory consequences of the motor commands (72 h). These observations provide novel insights into how the central nervous system evaluates body (inertia) and environmental (gravity) states during sensorimotor adaptation of point-to-point arm movements after an exposure to weightlessness.

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