The purpose of this study is to examine the mechanisms underlying control of intersegmental dynamics during reaching movements. Two experiments were conducted to determine the relative contributions of anticipatory and somatosensory feedback mechanisms in controlling intersegmental dynamics and whether adaptation to novel intersegmental dynamics generalizes across a range of movement directions. The mechanisms used to control interaction torques were examined by altering the inertial load of the forearm. Movements were restricted to the shoulder and elbow and supported on a horizontal plane by a frictionless air-jet system. Subjects made rapid out-and-back movements over a target line presented on a computer screen. The screen cursor disappeared at movement onset, and hand paths were displayed after each movement. After subjects adapted to a novel inertial configuration, the position of an attached mass was changed on pseudorandom trials. During these 'surprise' trials, movements were initiated with the torque patterns appropriate to the previously learned inertial condition. As a result, characteristic errors in initial movement direction were predicted by an open-looped forward simulation. After these errors occurred, feedback mediated changes in torque emerged that, surprisingly, further decreased the accuracy of movement reversals. Nevertheless at the end of movement, the hand consistently returned to the starting position. It is plausible that the final position was determined completely by feedback-mediated changes in torque. In a second experiment, adaptation to a novel inertial load during movements made in a single direction showed limited transfer across a range of directions. These findings support and extend those of previous reports, which indicated combined anticipatory and postural mechanisms to coordinate rapid reaching movements. The current results indicate a three-stage control system that sequentially links anticipatory, error correction, and postural mechanisms to control intersegmental dynamics. Our results, showing limited generalization across directions, are consistent with previous reports examining adaptation to externally applied forces and extend those findings to indicate that the nervous system uses sensory information to recalibrate internal representations of the musculoskeletal apparatus itself.
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