Mechanisms underlying interlimb transfer of visuomotor rotations

Exp Brain Res. 2003 Apr;149(4):520-6. doi: 10.1007/s00221-003-1392-x. Epub 2003 Feb 26.


We previously reported that opposite arm training improved the initial direction of dominant arm movements, whereas it only improved the final position accuracy of non-dominant arm movements. We now ask whether each controller accesses common, or separate, short-term memory resources. To address this question, we investigated interlimb transfer of learning for visuomotor rotations that were directed oppositely [clockwise (CW)/counterclockwise (CCW)] for the two arms. We expected that if information obtained by initial training was stored in the same short-term memory space for both arms, opposite arm training of a CW rotation would interfere with subsequent adaptation to a CCW rotation. All subjects first adapted to a 30 degrees rotation (CW) in the visual display during reaching movements. Following this, they adapted to a 30 degrees rotation in the opposite direction (CCW) with the other arm. In contrast to our previous findings for interlimb transfer of same direction rotations (CCW/CCW), no effects of opposite arm adaptation were indicated in the initial trials performed. This indicates that interlimb transfer is not obligatory, and suggests that short-term memory resources for the two limbs are independent. Through single trial analysis, we found that the direction and final position errors of the first trial of movement, following opposite arm training, were always the same as those of naive performance. This was true whether the opposite arm was trained with the same or the opposing rotation. When trained with the same rotation, transfer of learning did not occur until the second trial. These findings suggest that the selective use of opposite arm information is dependent on the first trial to probe current movement conditions. Interestingly, the final extent of adaptation appeared to be reduced by opposite arm training of opposing rotations. Thus, the extent of adaptation, but not initial information transfer, appears obligatorily affected by prior opposite arm adaptation. According to our findings, it is plausible that the initiation and the final extent of adaptation involve two independent neural processes. Theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rotation
  • Transfer, Psychology / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology