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Robot-enhanced motor learning: accelerating internal model formation during locomotion by transient dynamic amplification.

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Biomedical Engineering Department, University of California-Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


When adapting to novel dynamic environments the nervous system learns to anticipate the imposed forces by forming an internal model of the environmental dynamics in a process driven by movement error reduction. Here, we tested the hypothesis that motor learning could be accelerated by transiently amplifying the environmental dynamics. A novel dynamic environment was created during treadmill stepping by applying a perpendicular viscous force field to the leg through a robotic device. The environmental dynamics were amplified by an amount determined by a computational learning model fit on a per-subject basis. On average, subjects significantly reduced the time required to predict the applied force field by approximately 26% when the field was transiently amplified. However, this reduction was not as great as that predicted by the model, likely due to nonstationarities in the learning parameters. We conclude that motor learning of a novel dynamic environment can be accelerated by exploiting the error-based learning mechanism of internal model formation, but that nonlinearities in adaptive response may limit the feasible acceleration. These results support an approach to movement training devices that amplify rather than reduce movement errors, and provide a computational framework for both implementing the approach and understanding its limitations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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