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Behav Brain Res. 2012 Mar 1;228(1):107-15. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.11.040. Epub 2011 Dec 6.

The effects of working memory resource depletion and training on sensorimotor adaptation.

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School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


We have recently demonstrated that visuospatial working memory performance predicts the rate of motor skill learning, particularly during the early phase of visuomotor adaptation. Here, we follow up these correlational findings with direct manipulations of working memory resources to determine the impact on visuomotor adaptation, a form of motor learning. We conducted two separate experiments. In the first one, we used a resource depletion strategy to investigate whether the rate of early visuomotor adaptation would be negatively affected by fatigue of spatial working memory resources. In the second study, we employed a dual n-back task training paradigm that has been shown to result in transfer effects [1] over five weeks to determine whether training-related improvements would boost the rate of early visuomotor adaptation. The depletion of spatial working memory resources negatively affected the rate of early visuomotor adaptation. However, enhancing working memory capacity via training did not lead to improved rates of visuomotor adaptation, suggesting that working memory capacity may not be the factor limiting maximal rate of visuomotor adaptation in young adults. These findings are discussed from a resource limitation/capacity framework with respect to current views of motor learning.

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