Motor Adaptation Scaled by the Difficulty of a Secondary Cognitive TaskReport as inadecuate

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Motor learning requires evaluating performance in previous movements and modifying future movements. The executive system, generally involved in planning and decision-making, could monitor and modify behavior in response to changes in task difficulty or performance. Here we aim to identify the quantitative cognitive contribution to responsive and adaptive control to identify possible overlap between cognitive and motor processes.

Methodology-Principal Findings

We developed a dual-task experiment that varied the trial-by-trial difficulty of a secondary cognitive task while participants performed a motor adaptation task. Subjects performed a difficulty-graded semantic categorization task while making reaching movements that were occasionally subjected to force perturbations. We find that motor adaptation was specifically impaired on the most difficult to categorize trials.


We suggest that the degree of decision-level difficulty of a particular categorization differentially burdens the executive system and subsequently results in a proportional degradation of adaptation. Our results suggest a specific quantitative contribution of executive control in motor adaptation.

Author: Jordan A. Taylor, Kurt A. Thoroughman



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