Adaptive coupling influences generalization of sensorimotor learning

Sadeghi, Mohsen; Ingram, James N.; Wolpert, Daniel M.

Sensorimotor learning typically shows generalization from one context to another. Models of sensorimotor learning characterize this with a fixed generalization function that couples learning between contexts. Here we examine whether such coupling is indeed fixed or changes with experience. We examine the interaction between motor memories for novel dynamics during reciprocating, back and forth reaching movements. Subjects first experienced a force field for one movement direction and we used channel trials to assess generalization on the reciprocal movements. This showed minimal coupling such that errors experienced for one movement direction did not lead to adaptation for the other. However, after subjects had experienced a force field for both movement directions concurrently, a coupling developed between the corresponding motor memories. That is, on re-exposure for one direction there was a significant adaptation for movements in the other direction. The coupling was specific to the errors experienced, with minimal coupling when the errors had the opposite sign to those experienced during adaptation. We developed a state-space model in which the states for the two movement directions are represented by separate, yet potentially coupled learning processes. The coupling in the model controlled the extent to which each learning process was updated by the errors experienced on the other movement direction. We show that the coupling relies on a memory trace of the consecutive errors experienced for both movement directions. Our results suggest that the generalization of motor learning is an adaptive process, reflecting the relation between errors experienced across different movements.


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February 28, 2019