Can proprioceptive training improve motor learning?

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Dec;108(12):3313-21. doi: 10.1152/jn.00122.2012. Epub 2012 Sep 12.


Recent work has investigated the link between motor learning and sensory function in arm movement control. A number of findings are consistent with the idea that motor learning is associated with systematic changes to proprioception (Haith A, Jackson C, Mial R, Vijayakumar S. Adv Neural Inf Process Syst 21: 593-600, 2008; Ostry DJ, Darainy M, Mattar AA, Wong J, Gribble PL. J Neurosci 30: 5384-5393, 2010; Vahdat S, Darainy M, Milner TE, Ostry DJ. J Neurosci 31: 16907-16915, 2011). Here, we tested whether motor learning could be improved by providing subjects with proprioceptive training on a desired hand trajectory. Subjects were instructed to reproduce both the time-varying position and velocity of novel, complex hand trajectories. Subjects underwent 3 days of training with 90 movement trials per day. Active movement trials were interleaved with demonstration trials. For control subjects, these interleaved demonstration trials consisted of visual demonstration alone. A second group of subjects received visual and proprioceptive demonstration simultaneously; this group was presented with the same visual stimulus, but, in addition, their limb was moved through the target trajectory by a robot using servo control. Subjects who experienced the additional proprioceptive demonstration of the desired trajectory showed greater improvements during training movements than control subjects who only received visual information. This benefit of adding proprioceptive training was seen in both movement speed and position error. Interestingly, additional control subjects who received proprioceptive guidance while actively moving their arm during demonstration trials did not show the same improvement in positional accuracy. These findings support the idea that the addition of proprioceptive training can augment motor learning, and that this benefit is greatest when the subject passively experiences the goal movement.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult