Humans trade off viewing time and movement duration to improve visuomotor accuracy in a fast reaching task

Peter W. Battaglia, Paul R. Schrater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that the brain uses statistical knowledge of both sensory and motor accuracy to optimize behavioral performance. Here, we present the results of a novel experiment in which participants could control both of these quantities at once. Specifically, maximum performance demanded the simultaneous choices of viewing and movement durations, which directly impacted visual and motor accuracy. Participants reached to a target indicated imprecisely by a two-dimensional distribution of dots within a 1200 ms time limit. By choosing when to reach, participants selected the quality of visual information regarding target location as well as the remaining time available to execute the reach. New dots, and consequently more visual information, appeared until the reach was initiated; after reach initiation, no new dots appeared. However, speed accuracy trade-offs in motor control make early reaches (much remaining time) precise and late reaches (little remaining time) imprecise. Based on each participant's visual- and motor-only targethitting performances, we computed an "ideal reacher" that selects reach initiation times that minimize predicted reach endpoint deviations from the true target location. The participant's timing choices were qualitatively consistent with ideal predictions: choices varied with stimulus changes (but less than the predicted magnitude) and resulted in near-optimal performance despite the absence of direct feedback defining ideal performance. Our results suggest visual estimates, and their respective accuracies are passed to motor planning systems, which in turn predict the precision of potential reaches and control viewing and movement timing to favorably trade off visual and motor accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6984-6994
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 27 2007


  • Decision
  • Motor control
  • Optimality
  • Timing
  • Vision
  • Visuomotor variability

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