Sensitivity to error during visuomotor adaptation is similarly modulated by abrupt, gradual, and random perturbation schedules

Susan K. Coltman, Robert J. van Beers, W. Pieter Medendorp, Paul L. Gribble*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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It has been suggested that sensorimotor adaptation involves at least two processes (i.e., fast and slow) that differ in retention and error sensitivity. Previous work has shown that repeated exposure to an abrupt force field perturbation results in greater error sensitivity for both the fast and slow processes. Although this implies that the faster relearning is associated with increased error sensitivity, it remains unclear what aspects of prior experience modulate error sensitivity. In the present study, we manipulated the initial training using different perturbation schedules, thought to differentially affect fast and slow learning processes based on error magnitude, and then observed what effect prior learning had on subsequent adaptation. During initial training of a visuomotor rotation task, we exposed three groups of participants to either an abrupt, a gradual, or a random perturbation schedule. During a testing session, all three groups were subsequently exposed to an abrupt perturbation schedule. Comparing the two sessions of the control group who experienced repetition of the same perturbation, we found an increased error sensitivity for both processes. We found that the error sensitivity was increased for both the fast and slow processes, with no reliable changes in the retention, for both the gradual and structural learning groups when compared to the first session of the control group. We discuss the findings in the context of how fast and slow learning processes respond to a history of errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-945
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
Early online date11 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada (RGPIN-2018-05458 to P.L.G.) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (PJT-156241 to P.L.G.).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 the American Physiological Society.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Error sensitivity
  • Human
  • Motor learning
  • Savings
  • Two-state model


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