Background: Previous studies of learning to adapt reaching movements in the presence of novel forces show that learning multiple force fields is prone to interference. Recently it has been suggested that force field learning may reflect learning to manipulate a novel object. Within this theoretical framework, interference in force field learning may be the result of static tactile or haptic cues associated with grasp, which fail to indicate changing dynamic conditions. The idea that different haptic cues (e.g. those associated with different grasped objects) signal motor requirements and promote the learning and retention of multiple motor skills has previously been unexplored in the context of force field learning.
Methodology/principle findings: The present study tested the possibility that interference can be reduced when two different force fields are associated with differently shaped objects grasped in the hand. Human subjects were instructed to guide a cursor to targets while grasping a robotic manipulandum, which applied two opposing velocity-dependent curl fields to the hand. For one group of subjects the manipulandum was fitted with two different handles, one for each force field. No attenuation in interference was observed in these subjects relative to controls who used the same handle for both force fields.
Conclusions/significance: These results suggest that in the context of the present learning paradigm, haptic cues on their own are not sufficient to reduce interference and promote learning multiple force fields.