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J Neurosci. 2002 Nov 15;22(22):9656-60.

Transfer of motor learning across arm configurations.

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McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 1B1.


It has been suggested that the learning of new dynamics occurs in intrinsic coordinates. However, it has also been suggested that elements that encode hand velocity, and hence act in an extrinsic frame of reference, play a role in the acquisition of dynamics. To reconcile claims regarding the coordinate system involved in the representation of dynamics, we have used a procedure involving the transfer of force-field learning between two workspace locations. Subjects made point-to-point movements while holding a two-link manipulandum. Subjects were first trained to make movements in a single direction at the left of the workspace. They were then tested for transfer of learning at the right of the workspace. Two groups of subjects were defined. For the subjects in group j, movements at the left and right workspace locations were matched in terms of joint displacements. For the subjects in group h, movements in the two locations had the same hand displacements. Workspace locations were chosen such that for group j, the paths (for training and testing) that were identical in joint space were orthogonal in hand space. The subjects in group j showed good transfer between workspace locations, whereas the subjects in group h showed poor transfer. These results are in agreement with the idea that new dynamics are encoded in intrinsic coordinates and that this learning has a limited range of generalization across joint velocities.

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