Motor adaptation to different dynamic environments is facilitated by indicative context stimuli

Stefanie Richter, Jansen Osmann Petra, Jürgen Konczak, Karl Theodor Kalveram

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14 Scopus citations


When humans are exposed to external forces while performing arm movements, they adapt by compensating for these novel forces. The basis of this learning process is thought to be a neural representation that models the relation between all forces acting upon the system and the kinematic effects they produce, called inverse dynamic model (IDM). The present study investigated whether and how the predictability of a given external force affects the selection of an appropriate motor response to compensate for such force. Adult human subjects (N= 32) held a handle that could rotate around the elbow joint and learned to perform goal-directed forearm flexion movements, while an external velocity-dependent negative damping force was applied that assisted forearm movement. Subjects were randomly assigned to two groups. In the associative group, the applied damping force was always associated with a specific initial position. Thus, after initial learning, the force application became predictable. In the non-associative group, where the same movements were performed, the applied force was independent of the initial position, so that no association between force and location could be formed. We found that only the associative group significantly reduced target error when damping was present. That is, the location cue aided these subjects in generating dynamic responses in the appropriate limb. Our results indicate that motor adaptation to different dynamic environments can be facilitated by indicative stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-251
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This work was supported by grant Ka 417/18– 2 of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Science Foundation) to K.T. Kalveram and J. Konczak. We are indebted to each participant for investing considerable time and effort in this experiment.


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