Distinct motor plans form and retrieve distinct motor memories for physically identical movements

Curr Biol. 2012 Mar 6;22(5):432-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.01.042. Epub 2012 Feb 8.


We can adapt movements to a novel dynamic environment (e.g., tool use, microgravity, and perturbation) by acquiring an internal model of the dynamics. Although multiple environments can be learned simultaneously if each environment is experienced with different limb movement kinematics, it is controversial as to whether multiple internal models for a particular movement can be learned and flexibly retrieved according to behavioral contexts. Here, we address this issue by using a novel visuomotor task. While participants reached to each of two targets located at a clockwise or counter-clockwise position, a gradually increasing visual rotation was applied in the clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, respectively, to the on-screen cursor representing the unseen hand position. This procedure implicitly led participants to perform physically identical pointing movements irrespective of their intentions (i.e., movement plans) to move their hand toward two distinct visual targets. Surprisingly, if each identical movement was executed according to a distinct movement plan, participants could readily adapt these movements to two opposing force fields simultaneously. The results demonstrate that multiple motor memories can be learned and flexibly retrieved, even for physically identical movements, according to distinct motor plans in a visual space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Young Adult