Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Gribble, Paul


Proprioception is important for skilled motor control. Improvements in proprioception occur in conjunction with motor learning. However, it has not been established whether these improvements occur within intrinsic or extrinsic coordinate frames. In Experiment 1 we gave participants a perceptual test of sensed limb position and a motor learning task in the same location of the workspace or in two different locations of the workspace. Participants performed better on the proprioception test when the motor learning task was completed in the same location as the proprioception test. In Experiment 2 we tested whether this perceptual improvement occurred in an intrinsic or extrinsic coordinate frame. Proprioceptive improvements were observed when participants maintained the same joint angles, but no improvements were found when participants altered their joint angles and maintained the same hand position. This consists with the idea that perceptual changes associated to motor learning occur in an intrinsic coordinate frame.

Keywords: human, proprioception, motor learning, somatosensory cortex, intrinsic coordinate frame, extrinsic coordinate frame, sensory, perceptual

Summary for Lay Audience

How is it that we can touch our nose while simultaneously keeping our eyes closed, or reach for a cup of coffee without taking our focus off our computer screen? The answer is proprioception. Proprioception is described as our ability to know where our limbs are in the external space around us. Without proprioception we may have poor coordination, a lack of body and limb awareness, and loss of motor control. Proprioception changes are suggested to occur in conjunction with motor learning. Motor learning can be defined as improvements in performance through repeated practice, such as becoming a better soccer player through practice. By learning a new motor skill, such as playing soccer, you also use proprioception to coordinate your motor movements. For instance, when you are playing soccer, you look forward to see where to pass or shoot the ball while at the same time kicking the ball. Proprioception allows us to know where our leg and foot are in relation to the soccer ball without having to look down. Proprioception is seen to improve following a motor learning task. The question we are trying to answer in the present study is whether proprioception changes use information from our joint and limb angles or information from the external space around us to improve limb sense. Proprioception is imperative to understand as it plays an important role in our everyday life by informing our central nervous system of our body in space and limb changes.