Frames of reference during implicit and explicit learning

Tao Liu, Ovidiu V. Lungu, Tobias Waechter, Daniel T. Willingham, James Ashe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


There is a significant overlap between the processes and neural substrates of spatial cognition and those subserving memory and learning. However, for procedural learning, which often is spatial in nature, we do not know how different forms of spatial knowledge, such as egocentric and allocentric frames of reference, are utilized nor whether these frames are differentially engaged during implicit and explicit processes. To address this issue, we trained human subjects on a movement sequence presented on a bi-dimensional (2D) geometric frame. We then systematically manipulated the geometric frame (allocentric) or the sequence of movements (egocentric) or both, and retested the subjects on their ability to transfer the sequence knowledge they had acquired in training and also determined whether the subjects had learned the sequence implicitly or explicitly. None of the subjects (implicit or explicit) showed evidence of transfer when both frames of reference were changed which suggests that spatial information is essential. Both implicit and explicit subjects transferred when the egocentric frame was maintained indicating that this representation is common to both processes. Finally, explicit subjects were also able to benefit from the allocentric frame in transfer, which suggests that explicit procedural knowledge may have two tiers comprising egocentric and allocentric representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-280
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This study was supported by NIH grant NS40106 and Brain Sciences Chair, Department of Veterans AVairs.


  • Explicit
  • Implicit
  • Procedural learning
  • Reference frames


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