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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54925. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054925. Epub 2013 Jan 24.

Sensorimotor recalibration depends on attribution of sensory prediction errors to internal causes.

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Department of Cognitive Neurology, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


Sensorimotor learning critically depends on error signals. Learning usually tries to minimise these error signals to guarantee optimal performance. Errors can, however, have both internal causes, resulting from one's sensorimotor system, and external causes, resulting from external disturbances. Does learning take into account the perceived cause of error information? Here, we investigated the recalibration of internal predictions about the sensory consequences of one's actions. Since these predictions underlie the distinction of self- and externally produced sensory events, we assumed them to be recalibrated only by prediction errors attributed to internal causes. When subjects were confronted with experimentally induced visual prediction errors about their pointing movements in virtual reality, they recalibrated the predicted visual consequences of their movements. Recalibration was not proportional to the externally generated prediction error, but correlated with the error component which subjects attributed to internal causes. We also revealed adaptation in subjects' motor performance which reflected their recalibrated sensory predictions. Thus, causal attribution of error information is essential for sensorimotor learning.

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