Motor learning by observing

Neuron. 2005 Apr 7;46(1):153-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.02.009.


Learning complex motor behaviors like riding a bicycle or swinging a golf club is based on acquiring neural representations of the mechanical requirements of movement (e.g., coordinating muscle forces to control the club). Here we provide evidence that mechanisms matching observation and action facilitate motor learning. Subjects who observed a video depicting another person learning to reach in a novel mechanical environment (imposed by a robot arm) performed better when later tested in the same environment than subjects who observed similar movements but no learning; moreover, subjects who observed learning of a different environment performed worse. We show that this effect is not based on conscious strategies but instead depends on the implicit engagement of neural systems for movement planning and control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Robotics