It has been suggested that sensorimotor adaptation involves at least two processes (i.e., fast and slow) that differ in retention and error sensitivity. Previous work has shown that repeated exposure to an abrupt force field perturbation results in greater error sensitivity for both the fast and slow processes. Although this implies that the faster relearning is associated with increased error sensitivity, it remains unclear what aspects of prior experience modulate error sensitivity. In the present study, we manipulated the initial training using different perturbation schedules, thought to differentially affect fast and slow learning processes based on error magnitude, and then observed what effect prior learning had on subsequent adaptation. During initial training of a visuomotor rotation task, we exposed three groups of participants to either an abrupt, a gradual, or a random perturbation schedule. During a testing session, all three groups were subsequently exposed to an abrupt perturbation schedule. Comparing the two sessions of the control group who experienced repetition of the same perturbation, we found an increased error sensitivity for both processes. We found that the error sensitivity was increased for both the fast and slow processes, with no reliable changes in the retention, for both the gradual and structural learning groups when compared to the first session of the control group. We discuss the findings in the context of how fast and slow learning processes respond to a history of errors.NEW & NOTEWORTHY We investigated what aspects of prior experience modulate error sensitivity, within the framework of a two-state model of short-term sensorimotor adaptation. We manipulated initial training on a visuomotor adaptation reaching task using specific perturbation schedules that are thought to differentially affect fast and slow learning processes, and we tested what effect these had on subsequent adaptation. We found that sensitivity to adaptation error was similarly modulated by abrupt, gradual, and random perturbation schedules.
Keywords: error sensitivity; human; motor learning; savings; two-state model.