Circuit Mechanisms of Sensorimotor Learning

Neuron. 2016 Nov 23;92(4):705-721. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.10.029.


The relationship between the brain and the environment is flexible, forming the foundation for our ability to learn. Here we review the current state of our understanding of the modifications in the sensorimotor pathway related to sensorimotor learning. We divide the process into three hierarchical levels with distinct goals: (1) sensory perceptual learning, (2) sensorimotor associative learning, and (3) motor skill learning. Perceptual learning optimizes the representations of important sensory stimuli. Associative learning and the initial phase of motor skill learning are ensured by feedback-based mechanisms that permit trial-and-error learning. The later phase of motor skill learning may primarily involve feedback-independent mechanisms operating under the classic Hebbian rule. With these changes under distinct constraints and mechanisms, sensorimotor learning establishes dedicated circuitry for the reproduction of stereotyped neural activity patterns and behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*