A locomotor learning paradigm using distorted visual feedback elicits strategic learning

J Neurophysiol. 2018 Oct 1;120(4):1923-1931. doi: 10.1152/jn.00252.2018. Epub 2018 Aug 8.


Distorted visual feedback (DVF) during locomotion has been suggested to result in the development of a new walking pattern in healthy individuals through implicit learning processes. Recent work in upper extremity visuomotor rotation paradigms suggest that these paradigms involve implicit and explicit learning. Additionally, in upper extremity visuomotor paradigms, the verbal cues provided appear to impact how a behavior is learned and when this learned behavior is used. Here, in two experiments in neurologically intact individuals, we tested how verbal instruction impacts learning a new locomotor pattern on a treadmill through DVF, the transfer of that pattern to overground walking, and what types of learning occur (i.e., implicit vs. explicit learning). In experiment 1, we found that the instructions provided impacted the amount learned through DVF, but not the size of the aftereffects or the amount of the pattern transferred to overground walking. Additionally, the aftereffects observed were significantly different from the baseline walking pattern, but smaller than the behavior changes observed during learning, which is uncharacteristic of implicit sensorimotor adaptation. Thus, experiment 2 aimed to determine the cause of these discrepancies. In this experiment, when VF was not provided, individuals continued using the learned walking pattern when instructed to do so and returned toward their baseline pattern when instructed to do so. Based on these results, we conclude that DVF during locomotion results in a large portion of explicit learning and a small portion of implicit learning. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The results of this study suggest that distorted visual feedback during locomotor learning involves the development of an explicit strategy with only a small component of implicit learning. This is important because previous studies using distorted visual feedback have suggested that locomotor learning relies primarily on implicit learning. This paradigm, therefore, provides a new way to examine a different form of learning in locomotion.

Keywords: explicit learning; locomotion; motor learning; strategic learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Feedback, Sensory*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Perception*
  • Walking*