Target size matters: Target errors contribute to the generalization of implicit visuomotor learning

Maayan Reichenthal, Guy Avraham, Amir Karniel, Lior Shmuelof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The process of sensorimotor adaptation is considered to be driven by errors. While sensory prediction errors, defined as the difference between the planned and the actual movement of the cursor, drive implicit learning processes, target errors (e.g., the distance of the cursor from the target) are thought to drive explicit learning mechanisms. This distinction was mainly studied in the context of arm reaching tasks where the position and the size of the target were constant. We hypothesize that in a dynamic reaching environment, where subjects have to hit moving targets and the targets’ dynamic characteristics affect task success, implicit processes will benefit from target errors as well. We examine the effect of target errors on learning of an unnoticed perturbation during unconstrained reaching movements. Subjects played a Pong game, in which they had to hit a moving ball by moving a paddle controlled by their hand. During the game, the movement of the paddle was gradually rotated with respect to the hand, reaching a final rotation of 25°. Subjects were assigned to one of two groups: The high-target error group played the Pong with a small ball, and the low-target error group played with a big ball. Before and after the Pong game, subjects performed open-loop reaching movements toward static targets with no visual feedback. While both groups adapted to the rotation, the postrotation reaching movements were directionally biased only in the small-ball group. This result provides evidence that implicit adaptation is sensitive to target errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-424
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Generalization
  • Motor adaptation
  • Pong
  • Reaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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