Perturbation Variability Does Not Influence Implicit Sensorimotor Adaptation

PLoS Comput Biol. 2024 Apr 10;20(4):e1011951. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1011951. eCollection 2024 Apr.


Implicit adaptation has been regarded as a rigid process that automatically operates in response to movement errors to keep the sensorimotor system precisely calibrated. This hypothesis has been challenged by recent evidence suggesting flexibility in this learning process. One compelling line of evidence comes from work suggesting that this form of learning is context-dependent, with the rate of learning modulated by error history. Specifically, learning was attenuated in the presence of perturbations exhibiting high variance compared to when the perturbation is fixed. However, these findings are confounded by the fact that the adaptation system corrects for errors of different magnitudes in a non-linear manner, with the adaptive response increasing in a proportional manner to small errors and saturating to large errors. Through simulations, we show that this non-linear motor correction function is sufficient to explain the effect of perturbation variance without referring to an experience-dependent change in error sensitivity. Moreover, by controlling the distribution of errors experienced during training, we provide empirical evidence showing that there is no measurable effect of perturbation variance on implicit adaptation. As such, we argue that the evidence to date remains consistent with the rigidity assumption.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological* / physiology
  • Adult
  • Computational Biology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Movement / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology