Task-specific internal models for kinematic transformations

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Aug;90(2):578-85. doi: 10.1152/jn.01087.2002.


Numerous studies of motor learning have focused on how people adapt their reaching movements to novel dynamic and visuomotor perturbations that alter the actual or visually perceived motion of the hand. An important finding from this work is that learning of novel dynamics generalizes across different movement tasks. Thus adaptation to an unusual force field generalizes from center-out reaching movements to circular movements (Conditt et al. 1997). This suggests that subjects acquired an internal model of the dynamic environment that could be used to determine the motor commands needed for untrained movements. Using a task interference paradigm, we investigated whether transfer across tasks is also observed when learning visuomotor transformations. On day 1, all subjects adapted to a +30 degrees rotation while making center-out-and-back reaching movements. After a delay of 5 min, different groups of subjects then adapted to a -30 degrees rotation while performing either a continuous tracking task, a figure-eight drawing task, or the center-out-and-back reaching task. All subjects were then retested the next day on the +30 degrees rotation in the reaching task. As expected, subjects who experienced the opposing rotations while performing the same reaching tasks showed no retention of learning for the first rotation when tested on day 2 (Krakauer et al. 1999). In contrast, such retrograde interference was not observed in the two groups of subjects who experienced the opposing rotations while performing different tasks. In fact, their performance on day 2 was similar to that of control subjects who never experienced the opposite rotation. This lack of interference suggests that memory resources for visuomotor rotations are task specific.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis / physiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Rotation
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Transfer, Psychology / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*