Online visual feedback during error-free channel trials leads to active unlearning of movement dynamics: evidence for adaptation to trajectory prediction errors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Prolonged exposure to movement perturbations leads to creation of motor memories which decay towards previous states when the perturbations are removed. However, it remains unclear whether this decay is due only to a spontaneous and passive recovery of the previous state. It has recently been reported that activation of reinforcement-based learning mechanisms delays the onset of the decay. This raises the question whether other motor learning mechanisms may also contribute to the retention and/or decay of the motor memory. Therefore, we aimed to test whether mechanisms of error-based motor adaptation are active during the decay of the motor memory. Forty-five right-handed participants performed point-to-point reaching movements under an external dynamic perturbation. We measured the expression of the motor memory through error-clamped (EC) trials, in which lateral forces constrained movements to a straight line towards the target. We found greater and faster decay of the motor memory for participants who had access to full online visual feedback during these EC trials (Cursor group), when compared with participants who had no EC feedback regarding movement trajectory (Arc group). Importantly, we did not find between-group differences in adaptation to the external perturbation. In addition, we found greater decay of the motor memory when we artificially increased feedback errors through the manipulation of visual feedback (Augmented-Error group). Our results then support the notion of an active decay of the motor memory, suggesting that adaptive mechanisms are involved in correcting for the mismatch between predicted movement trajectories and actual sensory feedback, which leads to greater and faster decay of the motor memory.


Original languageEnglish
Article number472
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2016


  • motor adaptation, visual feedback, motor memory, trajectory prediction error, active unlearning