Lack of generalization between explicit and implicit visuomotor learning

PLoS One. 2019 Oct 17;14(10):e0224099. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224099. eCollection 2019.


Visuomotor adaptation has been thought to occur implicitly, although recent findings suggest that it involves both explicit and implicit processes. Here, we investigated generalization between an explicit condition, in which subjects reached toward imaginary targets under a veridical visuomotor condition, and an implicit condition, in which subjects reached toward visual targets under a 30-degree counterclockwise rotation condition. In experiment 1, two groups of healthy young adults first experienced either the explicit or the implicit condition, then the other condition. The third group experienced the explicit, then the implicit condition with an instruction that the same cognitive strategy could be used in both conditions. Results showed that initial explicit learning did not facilitate subsequent implicit learning, or vice versa, in the first two groups. Subjects in the third group performed better at the beginning of the implicit condition, but still had to adapt to the rotation gradually. In experiment 2, three additional subject groups were tested. One group experienced the explicit, then an implicit condition in which the rotation direction was opposite (30-degree clockwise rotation). Generalization between the conditions was still minimal in that group. Two other groups experienced either the explicit or implicit condition, then performed reaching movements without visual feedback. Those who experienced the explicit condition did not demonstrate aftereffects, while those who experienced the implicit condition did. Collectively, these findings suggest that visuomotor adaptation primarily involves implicit processes, and that explicit processes can add up in a complementary fashion as individuals become increasingly aware of the perturbation.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological*
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.