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Behav Brain Funct. 2009 Aug 28;5:36. doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-5-36.

Preserved motor learning after stroke is related to the degree of proprioceptive deficit.

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Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



Most motor learning theories posit that proprioceptive sensation serves an important role in acquiring and performing movement patterns. However, we recently demonstrated that experimental disruption of proprioception peripherally altered motor performance but not motor learning in humans. Little work has considered humans with central nervous system damage. The purpose of the present study was to specifically consider the relationship between proprioception and motor learning at the level of the central nervous system in humans.


Individuals with chronic (> 6mo) stroke and similarly aged healthy participants performed a continuous tracking task with an embedded repeating segment over two days and returned on a third day for retention testing. A limb-position matching task was used to quantify proprioception.


Individuals with chronic stroke demonstrated the ability to learn to track a repeating segment; however, the magnitude of behavioral change associated with repeated segment-specific learning was directly related to the integrity of central proprioceptive processing as indexed by our limb-position matching task.


These results support the importance of central sensory processing for motor learning. The confirmation of central sensory processing dependent motor learning in humans is discussed in the context of our prior report of preserved motor learning when sensation is disrupted peripherally.

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