Following a change in the environment or motor apparatus, human subjects are able to rapidly compensate their movements to recover accurate performance. This ability to adapt is thought to be achieved through multiple, qualitatively distinct learning processes acting in parallel. It is unclear, however, what the relative contributions of these multiple processes are during learning. In particular, long-term memories in such paradigms have been extensively studied through the phenomenon of savings-faster adaptation to a given perturbation the second time it is experienced-but it is unclear which components of learning contribute to this effect. Here we show that distinct components of learning in an adaptation task can be dissociated based on the amount of preparation time they require. During adaptation, we occasionally forced subjects to generate movements at very low preparation times. Early in learning, subjects expressed only a limited amount of their prior learning in these trials, though performance improved gradually with further practice. Following washout, subjects exhibited a strong and persistent aftereffect in trials in which preparation time was limited. When subjects were exposed to the same perturbation twice in successive days, they adapted faster the second time. This savings effect was, however, not seen in movements generated at low preparation times. These results demonstrate that preparation time plays a critical role in the expression of some components of learning but not others. Savings is restricted to those components that require prolonged preparation to be expressed and might therefore reflect a declarative rather than procedural form of memory.
Keywords: movement planning; reaction time; savings; visuomotor adaptation.
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