Rapid feedback responses correlate with reach adaptation and properties of novel upper limb loads

J Neurosci. 2013 Oct 2;33(40):15903-14. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0263-13.2013.


A hallmark of voluntary motor control is the ability to adjust motor patterns for novel mechanical or visuomotor contexts. Recent work has also highlighted the importance of feedback for voluntary control, leading to the hypothesis that feedback responses should adapt when we learn new motor skills. We tested this prediction with a novel paradigm requiring that human subjects adapt to a viscous elbow load while reaching to three targets. Target 1 required combined shoulder and elbow motion, target 2 required only elbow motion, and target 3 (probe target) required shoulder but no elbow motion. This simple approach controlled muscle activity at the probe target before, during, and after the application of novel elbow loads. Our paradigm allowed us to perturb the elbow during reaching movements to the probe target and identify several key properties of adapted stretch responses. Adapted long-latency responses expressed (de-) adaptation similar to reaching errors observed when we introduced (removed) the elbow load. Moreover, reaching errors during learning correlated with changes in the long-latency response, showing subjects who adapted more to the elbow load displayed greater modulation of their stretch responses. These adapted responses were sensitive to the size and direction of the viscous training load. Our results highlight an important link between the adaptation of feedforward and feedback control and suggest a key part of motor adaptation is to adjust feedback responses to the requirements of novel motor skills.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Upper Extremity / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*