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PLoS One. 2010 Feb 24;5(2):e9399. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009399.

Multiple motor learning strategies in visuomotor rotation.

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NTT Communication Science Laboratories, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, Atsugi, Kanagawa, Japan.



When exposed to a continuous directional discrepancy between movements of a visible hand cursor and the actual hand (visuomotor rotation), subjects adapt their reaching movements so that the cursor is brought to the target. Abrupt removal of the discrepancy after training induces reaching error in the direction opposite to the original discrepancy, which is called an aftereffect. Previous studies have shown that training with gradually increasing visuomotor rotation results in a larger aftereffect than with a suddenly increasing one. Although the aftereffect difference implies a difference in the learning process, it is still unclear whether the learned visuomotor transformations are qualitatively different between the training conditions.


We examined the qualitative changes in the visuomotor transformation after the learning of the sudden and gradual visuomotor rotations. The learning of the sudden rotation led to a significant increase of the reaction time for arm movement initiation and then the reaching error decreased, indicating that the learning is associated with an increase of computational load in motor preparation (planning). In contrast, the learning of the gradual rotation did not change the reaction time but resulted in an increase of the gain of feedback control, suggesting that the online adjustment of the reaching contributes to the learning of the gradual rotation. When the online cursor feedback was eliminated during the learning of the gradual rotation, the reaction time increased, indicating that additional computations are involved in the learning of the gradual rotation.


The results suggest that the change in the motor planning and online feedback adjustment of the movement are involved in the learning of the visuomotor rotation. The contributions of those computations to the learning are flexibly modulated according to the visual environment. Such multiple learning strategies would be required for reaching adaptation within a short training period.

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