Alignment to natural and imposed mismatches between the senses
Kooij, K. van der
Beers, R.J. van
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Does the nervous system continuously realign the senses so that objects are seen and felt in the same place? Conflicting answers to this question have been given. Research imposing a sensory mismatch has provided evidence that the nervous system realigns the senses to reduce the mismatch. Other studies have shown that when subjects point with the unseen hand to visual targets, their end points show visual-proprioceptive biases that do not disappear after episodes of visual feedback. These biases are indicative of intersensory mismatches that the nervous system does not align for. Here, we directly compare how the nervous system deals with natural and imposed mismatches. Subjects moved a hand-held cube to virtual cubes appearing at pseudorandom locations in three- dimensional space. We alternated blocks in which subjects moved without visual feedback of the hand with feedback blocks in which we rendered a cube representing the hand-held cube. In feedback blocks, we rotated the visual feedback by 5° relative to the subject’s head, creating an imposed mismatch between vision and proprioception on top of any natural mismatches. Realignment occurred quickly but was incomplete. We found more realignment to imposed mismatches than to natural mismatches. We propose that this difference is related to the way in which the visual information changed when subjects entered the experiment: the imposed mismatches were different from the mismatch in daily life, so alignment started from scratch, whereas the natural mismatches were not imposed by the experimenter, so subjects are likely to have entered the experiment partly aligned.