The influence of task outcome on implicit motor learning

Elife. 2019 Apr 29:8:e39882. doi: 10.7554/eLife.39882.


Recent studies have demonstrated that task success signals can modulate learning during sensorimotor adaptation tasks, primarily through engaging explicit processes. Here, we examine the influence of task outcome on implicit adaptation, using a reaching task in which adaptation is induced by feedback that is not contingent on actual performance. We imposed an invariant perturbation (rotation) on the feedback cursor while varying the target size. In this way, the cursor either hit or missed the target, with the former producing a marked attenuation of implicit motor learning. We explored different computational architectures that might account for how task outcome information interacts with implicit adaptation. The results fail to support an architecture in which adaptation operates in parallel with a model-free operant reinforcement process. Rather, task outcome may serve as a gain on implicit adaptation or provide a distinct error signal for a second, independent implicit learning process.

Editorial note: This article has been through an editorial process in which the authors decide how to respond to the issues raised during peer review. The Reviewing Editor's assessment is that all the issues have been addressed (see decision letter).

Keywords: adaptation; human; motor learning; neuroscience; reaching; reward learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult