Article

Natural error patterns enable transfer of motor learning to novel contexts

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Journal of Neurophysiology (Impact Factor: 3.04). 09/2011; 107(1):346-56. DOI: 10.1152/jn.00570.2011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Successful behavior demands motor learning to be transferable in some cases (e.g., adjusting walking patterns as we develop and age) and context specific in others (e.g., learning to walk in high heels). Here we investigated differences in motor learning transfer in people learning a new walking pattern on a split-belt treadmill, where the legs move at different speeds. We hypothesized that transfer of the newly acquired walking pattern on the treadmill to natural over ground walking might depend on the pattern of errors experienced during learning. Error patterns within a person's natural range might be experienced as endogenous (i.e., produced by the body), encouraging general adjustments that transfer across contexts. On the other hand, larger errors might be experienced as exogenous (i.e., produced by the environment), indicating unusual conditions requiring context-specific learning. To test this, we manipulated the distribution of errors experienced during learning to lie either within or outside the normal distribution of walking errors. We found that restriction of errors to the natural range produced transfer of the new walking pattern from the treadmill to natural walking off the treadmill, while larger errors prevented transfer. This result helps explain how transfer of motor learning is controlled, and it offers an important strategy for clinical rehabilitation, where transfer of motor learning to other contexts is essential.

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Available from: Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, May 20, 2015
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    • "Historically it has been assumed that large movement errors and increased practice difficulty, characteristics of sudden training, facilitate motor learning (Christina & Bjork, 1991; Schmidt & Bjork, 1992; Wolpert & Ghahramani, 2000). However, gradual training has been shown to improve or preserve the adaptation to, and retention or generalization of, novel motor skills when compared to sudden training (Kagerer, Contreras-Vidal, & Stelmach, 1997; Klassen, Tong, & Flanagan, 2005; Kluzik, Diedrichsen, Shadmehr, & Bastian, 2008; Malfait & Ostry, 2004; Torres-Oviedo & Bastian, 2012). Several studies suggest that the efficacy of gradual training may be due to subthreshold increments that reduce awareness of the changes taking place and the contribution of conscious adjustments during training (Criscimagna-Hemminger et al., 2010; Hatada, Rossetti, & Miall, 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: ABSTRACT The cognitive demand required for a range of locomotor tasks has been described for a variety of populations. However, the effect of different training strategies on the cognitive demand required while learning novel locomotor tasks is not well understood and may inform physical rehabilitation. The authors examined whether two training strategies, gradual and sudden training, influenced the cognitive demand required while practicing a novel locomotor task, asymmetric split-belt treadmill walking. Simple reaction times and whole-body kinematics were recorded throughout practice. Gradual training resulted in significantly lower reaction times during much of training, suggesting that gradual training is less cognitively demanding than sudden training, possibly due to a reduction in error feedback or movement planning demands.
    Journal of Motor Behavior 08/2013; DOI:10.1080/00222895.2013.815151 · 1.41 Impact Factor
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    • "To date only one study has examined the influence of gradual versus sudden training on locomotor tasks (Torres-Oviedo & Bastian, 2012). In this study of short term adaptations, gradual training resulted in a slower rate of decay of an adapted locomotor pattern, while sudden training induced greater initial adaptation to the novel locomotor task (Torres-Oviedo & Bastian, 2012). It remains unknown whether the efficacy of gradual training demonstrated for the delayed retention and transfer of novel upper extremity reaching tasks (Klassen et al., 2005; Malfait & Ostry, 2004) generalizes to the delayed retention and transfer of locomotor skills and their unique requirements. "
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    ABSTRACT: Motor learning strategies that increase practice difficulty and the size of movement errors are thought to facilitate motor learning. In contrast to this, gradual training minimizes movement errors and reduces practice difficulty by incrementally introducing task requirements, yet remains as effective as sudden training and its large movement errors for learning novel reaching tasks. While attractive as a locomotor rehabilitation strategy, it remains unknown whether the efficacy of gradual training extends to learning locomotor tasks and their unique requirements. The influence of gradual vs. sudden training on learning a locomotor task, asymmetric split belt treadmill walking, was examined by assessing whole body sagittal plane kinematics during 24hour retention and transfer performance following either gradual or sudden training. Despite less difficult and less specific practice for the gradual cohort on day 1, gradual training resulted in equivalent motor learning of the novel locomotor task as sudden training when assessed by retention and transfer a day later. This suggests that large movement errors and increased practice difficulty may not be necessary for learning novel locomotor tasks. Further, gradual training may present a viable locomotor rehabilitation strategy avoiding large movement errors that could limit or impair improvements in locomotor performance.
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    • "In contrast, gradual training incrementally introduces performance requirements throughout practice, effectively reducing practice difficulty and minimizing the size of movement errors [11]. In spite of this reduction in movement errors and practice difficulty, gradual training is able to maintain or improve performance on adaptive reaching tasks [11], and strengthen the adaptation to novel locomotor tasks [13] when compared to sudden training. Gradual training may therefore represent an attractive training strategy for improving or restoring locomotor balance control during rehabilitation since it avoids large "
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