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J Neurosci. 2010 Apr 14;30(15):5384-93. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4571-09.2010.

Somatosensory plasticity and motor learning.

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McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3A 1B1, Canada.


Motor learning is dependent upon plasticity in motor areas of the brain, but does it occur in isolation, or does it also result in changes to sensory systems? We examined changes to somatosensory function that occur in conjunction with motor learning. We found that even after periods of training as brief as 10 min, sensed limb position was altered and the perceptual change persisted for 24 h. The perceptual change was reflected in subsequent movements; limb movements following learning deviated from the prelearning trajectory by an amount that was not different in magnitude and in the same direction as the perceptual shift. Crucially, the perceptual change was dependent upon motor learning. When the limb was displaced passively such that subjects experienced similar kinematics but without learning, no sensory change was observed. The findings indicate that motor learning affects not only motor areas of the brain but changes sensory function as well.

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