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Exp Brain Res. 2010 Mar;201(2):119-31. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-2014-z. Epub 2009 Sep 29.

Comparison of error-amplification and haptic-guidance training techniques for learning of a timing-based motor task by healthy individuals.

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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Irvine, 4200 Engineering Gateway, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Performance errors drive motor learning for many tasks. Some researchers have suggested that reducing performance errors with haptic guidance can benefit learning by demonstrating correct movements, while others have suggested that artificially increasing errors will force faster and more complete learning. This study compared the effect of these two techniques--haptic guidance and error amplification--as healthy subjects learned to play a computerized pinball-like game. The game required learning to press a button using wrist movement at the correct time to make a flipper hit a falling ball to a randomly positioned target. Errors were decreased or increased using a robotic device that retarded or accelerated wrist movement, based on sensed movement initiation timing errors. After training with either error amplification or haptic guidance, subjects significantly reduced their timing errors and generalized learning to untrained targets. However, for a subset of more skilled subjects, training with amplified errors produced significantly greater learning than training with the reduced errors associated with haptic guidance, while for a subset of less skilled subjects, training with haptic guidance seemed to benefit learning more. These results suggest that both techniques help enhanced performance of a timing task, but learning is optimized if training subjects with the appropriate technique based on their baseline skill level.

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