Individual differences in motor noise and adaptation rate are optimally related

Rick Van Der Vliet, Maarten A. Frens, Linda De Vreede, Zeb D. Jonker, Gerard M. Ribbers, Ruud W. Selles, Jos N. Van Der Geest, Opher Donchin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Individual variations in motor adaptation rate were recently shown to correlate with movement variability or “motor noise” in a forcefield adaptation task. However, this finding could not be replicated in a meta-analysis of adaptation experiments. Possibly, this inconsistency stems from noise being composed of distinct components that relate to adaptation rate in different ways. Indeed, previous modeling and electrophysiological studies have suggested that motor noise can be factored into planning noise, originating from the brain, and execution noise, stemming from the periphery. Were the motor system optimally tuned to these noise sources, planning noise would correlate positively with adaptation rate, and execution noise would correlate negatively with adaptation rate, a phenomenon familiar in Kalman filters. To test this prediction, we performed a visuomotor adaptation experiment in 69 subjects. Using a novel Bayesian fitting procedure, we succeeded in applying the wellestablished state-space model of adaptation to individual data. We found that adaptation rate correlates positively with planning noise (β = 0.44; 95% HDI = [0.27 0.59]) and negatively with execution noise (β = −0.39; 95% HDI = [−0.50 −0.30]). In addition, the steady-state Kalman gain calculated from planning and execution noise correlated positively with adaptation rate (r = 0.54; 95% HDI = [0.38 0.66]). These results suggest that motor adaptation is tuned to approximate optimal learning, consistent with the “optimal contro” framework that has been used to explain motor control. Since motor adaptation is thought to be a largely cerebellar process, the results further suggest the sensitivity of the cerebellum to both planning noise and execution noise.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0170-18.2018
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Bayesian statistics
  • Cerebellum
  • Motor learning
  • Noise
  • Optimal control
  • Visuomotor adaptation


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