Stimulus-locked responses on human upper limb muscles and corrective reaches are preferentially evoked by low spatial frequencies

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© 2019 Kozak et al. In situations requiring immediate action, humans can generate visually-guided responses at remarkably short latencies. Here, to better understand the visual attributes that best evoke such rapid responses, we recorded upper limb muscle activity while participants performed visually-guided reaches towards Gabor patches composed of differing spatial frequencies (SFs). We studied reaches initiated from a stable posture (experiment 1, a static condition), or during on-line reach corrections to an abruptly displaced target (experiment 2, a dynamic condition). In both experiments, we detail the latency and prevalence of stimulus-locked responses (SLRs), which are brief bursts of EMG activity that are time-locked to target presentation rather than movement onset. SLRs represent the first wave of EMG recruitment influenced by target presentation, and enable quantification of rapid visuomotor transformations. In both experiments, reach targets composed of low SFs elicited the shortest latency and most prevalent SLRs, with SLR latency increasing and SLR prevalence decreasing for reach targets composed of progressively higher SFs. SLRs could be evoked in either the static or dynamic condition, and when present in experiment 2, were associated with shorter latency and larger magnitude corrections. The results in experiment 2 are consistent with a linkage between the forces produced by SLRs and the earliest portion of on-line reach corrections. Overall, our results demonstrate that stimuli composed of low SFs preferentially evoke the most rapid visuomotor responses that, in the context of rapidly correcting an on-going reaching movement, are associated with earlier and larger on-line reach corrections.

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