Predicting explorative motor learning using decision-making and motor noise

Xiuli Chen, Kieran Mohr, Joseph M Galea

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17 Citations (Scopus)
172 Downloads (Pure)


A fundamental problem faced by humans is learning to select motor actions based on noisy sensory information and incomplete knowledge of the world. Recently, a number of authors have asked whether this type of motor learning problem might be very similar to a range of higher-level decision-making problems. If so, participant behaviour on a high-level decision-making task could be predictive of their performance during a motor learning task. To investigate this question, we studied performance during an explorative motor learning task and a decision-making task which had a similar underlying structure with the exception that it was not subject to motor (execution) noise. We also collected an independent measurement of each participant's level of motor noise. Our analysis showed that explorative motor learning and decision-making could be modelled as the (approximately) optimal solution to a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process bounded by noisy neural information processing. The model was able to predict participant performance in motor learning by using parameters estimated from the decision-making task and the separate motor noise measurement. This suggests that explorative motor learning can be formalised as a sequential decision-making process that is adjusted for motor noise, and raises interesting questions regarding the neural origin of explorative motor learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1005503
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2017


  • Journal Article


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