Transfer of learning between unimanual and bimanual rhythmic movement coordination: transfer is a function of the task dynamic

Exp Brain Res. 2015 Jul;233(7):2225-38. doi: 10.1007/s00221-015-4292-y. Epub 2015 May 1.


Under certain conditions, learning can transfer from a trained task to an untrained version of that same task. However, it is as yet unclear what those certain conditions are or why learning transfers when it does. Coordinated rhythmic movement is a valuable model system for investigating transfer because we have a model of the underlying task dynamic that includes perceptual coupling between the limbs being coordinated. The model predicts that (1) coordinated rhythmic movements, both bimanual and unimanual, are organised with respect to relative motion information for relative phase in the coupling function, (2) unimanual is less stable than bimanual coordination because the coupling is unidirectional rather than bidirectional, and (3) learning a new coordination is primarily about learning to perceive and use the relevant information which, with equal perceptual improvement due to training, yields equal transfer of learning from bimanual to unimanual coordination and vice versa [but, given prediction (2), the resulting performance is also conditioned by the intrinsic stability of each task]. In the present study, two groups were trained to produce 90° either unimanually or bimanually, respectively, and tested in respect to learning (namely improved performance in the trained 90° coordination task and improved visual discrimination of 90°) and transfer of learning (to the other, untrained 90° coordination task). Both groups improved in the task condition in which they were trained and in their ability to visually discriminate 90°, and this learning transferred to the untrained condition. When scaled by the relative intrinsic stability of each task, transfer levels were found to be equal. The results are discussed in the context of the perception-action approach to learning and performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Periodicity*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Transfer, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult