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Experimental Brain Research

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We examined how implicit and explicit memories contribute to sensorimotor adaptation of movement extent during goal-directed reaching. Twenty subjects grasped the handle of a horizontal planar robot that rendered spring-like resistance to movement. Subjects made rapid “out-and-back” reaches to capture a remembered visual target at the point of maximal reach extent. The robot’s resistance changed unpredictably between reaches, inducing target capture errors that subjects attempted to correct from one trial to the next. Each subject performed over 400 goal-directed reaching trials. Some trials were performed without concurrent visual cursor feedback of hand motion. Some trials required self-assessment of performance between trials, whereby subjects reported peak reach extent on the most recent trial. This was done by either moving a cursor on a horizontal display (visual self-assessment), or by moving the robot’s handle back to the recalled location (proprioceptive self-assessment). Control condition trials performed either without or with concurrent visual cursor feedback of hand motion did not require self-assessments. We used step-wise linear regression analyses to quantify the extent to which prior reach errors and explicit memories of reach extent contribute to subsequent reach performance. Consistent with prior reports, providing concurrent visual feedback of hand motion increased reach accuracy and reduced the impact of past performance errors on future performance, relative to the corresponding no-vision control condition. By contrast, we found no impact of interposed self-assessment on subsequent reach performance or on how prior target capture errors influence subsequent reach performance. Self-assessments were biased toward the remembered target location and they spanned a compressed range of values relative to actual reach extents, demonstrating that declarative memories of reach performance systematically differed from actual performances. We found that multilinear regression could best account for observed data variability when the regression model included only implicit memories of prior reach performance; including explicit memories (self-assessments) in the model did not improve its predictive accuracy. We conclude therefore that explicit memories of prior reach performance do not contribute to implicit sensorimotor adaptation of movement extent during goal-directed reaching under conditions of environmental uncertainty.


Published version. Experimental Brain Research, Vol. 239, No. 8 (August 2021): 2445-2459. DOI. © 2021 is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2021.

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