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Time, Delays, and Agency

March 13, 201622:43

Marc Ernst and I have recently published a review article for Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences about the research on temporal sensorimotor adaptation that we and others have conducted in recent years. Our review focuses on things that make temporal adaptation different from other cases of sensorimotor adaptation, such as adaptation to displacements of the visual field by prism goggles.

Sensorimotor timing plays an important role in the inference of agency, as actions always occur before their sensory effects. This temporal order constraint influences temporal adaptation. Moreover, depending on which action we choose to perform, it can be more or less easy to identify the presence of a delay in closed-loop sensorimotor control. Therefore, delays are sometimes confused with superficially similar sensory perturbations, such as changes in mass or spatial offsets, which then interferes with temporal adaptation. These properties make research on temporal adaptation difficult, interesting, and prone to confounds.


Illustration of the sensory feedback delays (visual, kinaesthetic) involved in the action of catching a ball in flight

I am particularly happy about the publication of this article because it gave us a chance to share the most important things that we have learned on this topic in a condensed and accessible format (even if some exciting results of ours still await publication – watch this space!). As I have recently left academia to take up a job in industry, it is important for me to wrap up (I will soon write a post about this, too). I hope our article inspires others to keep investigating this interesting topic and saves them from committing some not-so-obvious mistakes.

Citation: Rohde, M. & Ernst, M.O. (2016) Time, agency, and sensory feedback delays during action. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 8, 193-199.

Email me or check Researchgate for a full-text of the article.