Distinct coordinate systems for adaptations of movement direction and extent

J Neurophysiol. 2017 Nov 1;118(5):2670-2686. doi: 10.1152/jn.00326.2016. Epub 2017 Aug 23.


Learned compensations for perturbed visual feedback of movement extent and direction generalize differently to unpracticed movement directions, which suggests different underlying neural mechanisms. Here we investigated whether gain and rotation adaptations are consistent with representation in different coordinate systems. Subjects performed a force-aiming task with the wrist and learned different gains or rotations for different force directions. Generalization was tested without visual feedback for the same extrinsic directions but with the forearm in a different pronation-supination orientation. When the change in forearm orientation caused the adapted visuomotor map to conflict in extrinsic and joint-based coordinates, rotation generalization occurred in extrinsic coordinates but with reduced magnitude. In contrast, gain generalization appeared reduced and phase shifted. When the forearm was rotated further, such that all imposed perturbations aligned in both joint-based and extrinsic coordinates in both postures, rotation generalization was further reduced, whereas there was neither reduction nor phase shift in the pattern of extent generalization. These results show that rotation generalization was expressed in extrinsic coordinates, and that generalization magnitude was modulated by posture. In contrast, gain generalization appeared to depend on target direction defined by an integrated combination of extrinsic and joint-based coordinates and was not reduced substantially by posture changes alone. Although the quality of the model fit underlying our interpretation prevents us from making strong conclusions, the data suggest that adaptations of movement direction and extent are represented according to distinct coordinate systems.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Visuomotor gain and rotation adaptations generalize differently to novel movement directions, which suggests different neural mechanisms. When extrinsic and joint-based coordinates are effectively dissociated in an isometric aiming task, we find that they also generalize in different coordinate systems. Specifically, rotation generalized in extrinsic coordinates and decayed as posture departed from that adopted during adaptation. In contrast, gain generalization was expressed according to mixed extrinsic/joint-based coordinates and was not substantially reduced by postural changes.

Keywords: coordinate frames; motor learning; sensorimotor adaptation; visuomotor gain; visuomotor rotation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Feedback, Physiological*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Posture
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Rotation
  • Visual Perception