Taking Aim at the Cognitive Side of Learning in Sensorimotor Adaptation Tasks

Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 Jul;20(7):535-544. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.05.002. Epub 2016 May 31.


Sensorimotor adaptation tasks have been used to characterize processes responsible for calibrating the mapping between desired outcomes and motor commands. Research has focused on how this form of error-based learning takes place in an implicit and automatic manner. However, recent work has revealed the operation of multiple learning processes, even in this simple form of learning. This review focuses on the contribution of cognitive strategies and heuristics to sensorimotor learning, and how these processes enable humans to rapidly explore and evaluate novel solutions to enable flexible, goal-oriented behavior. This new work points to limitations in current computational models, and how these must be updated to describe the conjoint impact of multiple processes in sensorimotor learning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motor Skills
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology