Behavioral Impact of Unisensory and Multisensory Audio-Tactile Events: Pros and Cons for Interlimb Coordination in Juggling

Gregory Zelic, Denis Mottet, Julien Lagarde, Paul L. Gribble
2012 PLoS ONE  
Recent behavioral neuroscience research revealed that elementary reactive behavior can be improved in the case of crossmodal sensory interactions thanks to underlying multisensory integration mechanisms. Can this benefit be generalized to an ongoing coordination of movements under severe physical constraints? We choose a juggling task to examine this question. A central issue well-known in juggling lies in establishing and maintaining a specific temporal coordination among balls, hands, eyes
more » ... posture. Here, we tested whether providing additional timing information about the balls and hands motions by using external sound and tactile periodic stimulations, the later presented at the wrists, improved the behavior of jugglers. One specific combination of auditory and tactile metronome led to a decrease of the spatiotemporal variability of the juggler's performance: a simple sound associated to left and right tactile cues presented antiphase to each other, which corresponded to the temporal pattern of hands movement in the juggling task. A contrario, no improvements were obtained in the case of other auditory and tactile combinations. We even found a degraded performance when tactile events were presented alone. The nervous system thus appears able to integrate in efficient way environmental information brought by different sensory modalities, but only if the information specified matches specific features of the coordination pattern. We discuss the possible implications of these results for the understanding of the neuronal integration process implied in audio-tactile interaction in the context of complex voluntary movement, and considering the well-known gating effect of movement on vibrotactile perception.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032308 pmid:22384211 pmcid:PMC3288083 fatcat:ju5btzukinhvfogdz2vf57moya