Adaptation to visual feedback delay influences visuomotor learning

PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37900. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037900. Epub 2012 May 30.


Computational theory of motor control suggests that the brain continuously monitors motor commands, to predict their sensory consequences before actual sensory feedback becomes available. Such prediction error is a driving force of motor learning, and therefore appropriate associations between motor commands and delayed sensory feedback signals are crucial. Indeed, artificially introduced delays in visual feedback have been reported to degrade motor learning. However, considering our perceptual ability to causally bind our own actions with sensory feedback, demonstrated by the decrease in the perceived time delay following repeated exposure to an artificial delay, we hypothesized that such perceptual binding might alleviate deficits of motor learning associated with delayed visual feedback. Here, we evaluated this hypothesis by investigating the ability of human participants to adapt their reaching movements in response to a novel visuomotor environment with 3 visual feedback conditions--no-delay, sudden-delay, and adapted-delay. To introduce novelty into the trials, the cursor position, which originally indicated the hand position in baseline trials, was rotated around the starting position. In contrast to the no-delay condition, a 200-ms delay was artificially introduced between the cursor and hand positions during the presence of visual rotation (sudden-delay condition), or before the application of visual rotation (adapted-delay condition). We compared the learning rate (representing how the movement error modifies the movement direction in the subsequent trial) between the 3 conditions. In comparison with the no-delay condition, the learning rate was significantly degraded for the sudden-delay condition. However, this degradation was significantly alleviated by prior exposure to the delay (adapted-delay condition). Our data indicate the importance of appropriate temporal associations between motor commands and sensory feedback in visuomotor learning. Moreover, they suggest that the brain is able to account for such temporal associations in a flexible manner.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult