Extended Training Improves the Accuracy and Efficiency of Goal-Directed Reaching Guided by Supplemental Kinesthetic Vibrotactile Feedback

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Experimental Brain Research

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DOI: 10.1007/s00221-022-06533-1


Prior studies have shown that the accuracy and efficiency of reaching can be improved using novel sensory interfaces to apply task-specific vibrotactile feedback (VTF) during movement. However, those studies have typically evaluated performance after less than 1 h of training using VTF. Here, we tested the effects of extended training using a specific form of vibrotactile cues—supplemental kinesthetic VTF—on the accuracy and temporal efficiency of goal-directed reaching. Healthy young adults performed planar reaching with VTF encoding of the moving hand's instantaneous position, applied to the non-moving arm. We compared target capture errors and movement times before, during, and after approximately 10 h (20 sessions) of training on the VTF-guided reaching task. Initial performance of VTF-guided reaching showed that people were able to use supplemental VTF to improve reaching accuracy. Performance improvements were retained from one training session to the next. After 20 sessions of training, the accuracy and temporal efficiency of VTF-guided reaching were equivalent to or better than reaches performed with only proprioception. However, hand paths during VTF-guided reaching exhibited a persistent strategy where movements were decomposed into discrete sub-movements along the cardinal axes of the VTF display. We also used a dual-task condition to assess the extent to which performance gains in VTF-guided reaching resist dual-task interference. Dual-tasking capability improved over the 20 sessions, such that the primary VTF-guided reaching and a secondary choice reaction time task were performed with increasing concurrency. Thus, VTF-guided reaching is a learnable skill in young adults, who can achieve levels of accuracy and temporal efficiency equaling or exceeding those observed during movements guided only by proprioception. Future studies are warranted to explore learnability in older adults and patients with proprioceptive deficits, who might benefit from using wearable sensory augmentation technologies to enhance control of arm movements.


Experimental Brain Research, Vol. 241, No. 2 (February 2023): 479-493. DOI.