Humans continuously adapt their movement to a novel environment by recalibrating their sensorimotor system. Recent evidence, however, shows that explicit planning to compensate for external changes, i.e., a cognitive strategy, can also aid performance. If such a strategy is planned in external space, it should improve performance in an effector-independent manner. We tested this hypothesis by examining whether promoting a cognitive strategy during a visual-force adaptation task performed in one hand can facilitate learning for the opposite hand. Participants rapidly adjusted the height of visual bar on screen to a target level by isometrically exerting force on a handle using their right hand. Visuomotor gain increased during the task and participants learned the increased gain. Visual feedback was continuously provided for one group, whereas for another group only the endpoint of the force trajectory was presented. The latter has been reported to promote cognitive strategy use. We found that endpoint feedback produced stronger intermanual transfer of learning and slower response times than continuous feedback. In a separate experiment, we found evidence that aftereffects are reduced when only endpoint feedback is provided, a finding that has been consistently observed when cognitive strategies are used. The results suggest that intermanual transfer can be facilitated by a cognitive strategy. This indicates that the behavioral observation of intermanual transfer can be achieved either by forming an effector-independent motor representation or by sharing an effector-independent cognitive strategy between the hands.NEW & NOTEWORTHY The causes and consequences of cognitive strategy use are poorly understood. We tested whether a visuomotor task learned in a manner that may promote cognitive strategy use causes greater generalization across effectors. Visual feedback was manipulated to promote cognitive strategy use. Learning consistent with cognitive strategy use for one hand transferred to the unlearned hand. Our result suggests that intermanual transfer can result from a common cognitive strategy used to control both hands.
Keywords: cognitive strategy; intermanual transfer; visual feedback; visuomotor adaptation; visuomotor gain.