Hand interception of occluded motion in humans: A test of model-based vs.on-line control

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Two control schemes have been hypothesized for the manual interception of fast visual targets. In the model-free on-line control, extrapolation of target motion is based on continuous visual information, without resorting to physical models. In the model-based control, instead, a prior model of target motion predicts the future spatiotemporal trajectory. To distinguish between the two hypotheses in the case of projectile motion, we asked participants to hit a ball that rolled down an incline at 0.2 g and then fell in air at 1 g along a parabola. By varying starting position, ball velocity and trajectory differed between trials. Motion on the incline was always visible, whereas parabolic motion was either visible or occluded. We found that participants were equally successful at hitting the falling ball in both visible and occluded conditions. Moreover, in different trials the intersection points were distributed along the parabolic trajectories of the ball, indicating that subjects were able to extrapolate an extended segment of the target trajectory. Remarkably, this trend was observed even at the very first repetition of movements. These results are consistent with the hypothesis of model-based control, but not with on-line control. Indeed, ball path and speed during the occlusion could not be extrapolated solely from the kinematic information obtained during the preceding visible phase. The only way to extrapolate ball motion correctly during the occlusion was to assume that the ball would fall under gravity and air drag when hidden from view. Such an assumption had to be derived from prior experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1577-1592
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Gravity
  • Internal model
  • Visual extrapolation
  • Visual motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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