Environmental consistency modulation of error sensitivity during motor adaptation is explicitly controlled

Guy Avraham, Matan Keizman, Lior Shmuelof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Motor adaptation, the adjustment of a motor output in face of changes in the environment, may operate at different rates. When human participants encounter repeated or consistent perturbations, their corrections for the experienced errors are larger compared with when the perturbations are new or inconsistent. Such modulations of error sensitivity were traditionally considered to be an implicit process that does not require attentional resources. In recent years, the implicit view of motor adaptation has been challenged by evidence showing a contribution of explicit strategies to learning. These findings raise a fundamental question regarding the nature of the error sensitivity modulation processes. We tested the effect of explicit control on error sensitivity in a series of experiments, in which participants controlled a screen cursor to virtual targets. We manipulated environmental consistency by presenting rotations in random (low consistency) or random walk (high consistency) sequences and illustrated that perturbation consistency affects the rate of adaptation, corroborating previous studies. When participants were instructed to ignore the cursor and move directly to the target, thus eliminating the contribution of explicit strategies, consistency-driven error sensitivity modulation was not detected. In addition, delaying the visual feedback, a manipulation that affects implicit learning, did not influence error sensitivity under consistent perturbations. These results suggest that increases of learning rate in consistent environments are attributable to an explicit rather than implicit process in sensorimotor adaptation. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The consistency of an external perturbation modulates error sensitivity and the motor response. The roles of explicit and implicit processes in this modulation are unknown. We show that when humans are asked to ignore the perturbation, they do not show increased error sensitivity in consistent environments. When the implicit system is manipulated by delaying feedback, sensitivity to a consistent perturbation does not change. Overall, our results suggest that consistency affects adaptation mainly through explicit control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Volume123
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • Consistency
  • Explicit control
  • Implicit adaptation
  • Motor control
  • Sensorimotor learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Physiology

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