Individual differences in explicit and implicit visuomotor learning and working memory capacity

Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 8:6:36633. doi: 10.1038/srep36633.


The theoretical basis for the association between high working memory capacity (WMC) and enhanced visuomotor adaptation is unknown. Visuomotor adaptation involves interplay between explicit and implicit systems. We examined whether the positive association between adaptation and WMC is specific to the explicit component of adaptation. Experiment 1 replicated the positive correlation between WMC and adaptation, but revealed this was specific to the explicit component of adaptation, and apparently driven by a sub-group of participants who did not show any explicit adaptation in the correct direction. A negative correlation was observed between WMC and implicit learning. Experiments 2 and 3 showed that when the task restricted the development of an explicit strategy, high WMC was no longer associated with enhanced adaptation. This work reveals that the benefit of high WMC is specifically linked to an individual's capacity to use an explicit strategy. It also reveals an important contribution of individual differences in determining how adaptation is performed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*