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Curr Biol. 2014 Jan 6;24(1):82-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.11.012. Epub 2013 Dec 19.

Computer use changes generalization of movement learning.

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Department of Psychology, Peking University, 100871 Beijing, China. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, Peking University, 100871 Beijing, China.
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Over the past few decades, one of the most salient lifestyle changes for us has been the use of computers. For many of us, manual interaction with a computer occupies a large portion of our working time. Through neural plasticity, this extensive movement training should change our representation of movements (e.g., [1-3]), just like search engines affect memory [4]. However, how computer use affects motor learning is largely understudied. Additionally, as virtually all participants in studies of perception and actions are computer users, a legitimate question is whether insights from these studies bear the signature of computer-use experience. We compared non-computer users with age- and education-matched computer users in standard motor learning experiments. We found that people learned equally fast but that non-computer users generalized significantly less across space, a difference negated by two weeks of intensive computer training. Our findings suggest that computer-use experience shaped our basic sensorimotor behaviors, and this influence should be considered whenever computer users are recruited as study participants.

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