Sensorimotor adaptation changes the neural coding of somatosensory stimuli

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Apr;109(8):2077-85. doi: 10.1152/jn.00719.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 23.


Motor learning is reflected in changes to the brain's functional organization as a result of experience. We show here that these changes are not limited to motor areas of the brain and indeed that motor learning also changes sensory systems. We test for plasticity in sensory systems using somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs). A robotic device is used to elicit somatosensory inputs by displacing the arm in the direction of applied force during learning. We observe that following learning there are short latency changes to the response in somatosensory areas of the brain that are reliably correlated with the magnitude of motor learning: subjects who learn more show greater changes in SEP magnitude. The effects we observe are tied to motor learning. When the limb is displaced passively, such that subjects experience similar movements but without experiencing learning, no changes in the evoked response are observed. Sensorimotor adaptation thus alters the neural coding of somatosensory stimuli.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arm
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Motor Skills
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Reaction Time
  • Robotics
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*