, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 400-405
Date: 26 Apr 2005

Interference between velocity-dependent and position-dependent force-fields indicates that tasks depending on different kinematic parameters compete for motor working memory

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Abstract

Humans demonstrate motor learning when exposed to changes in the dynamics of movement or changes in the visuomotor map. However, when two opposing dynamic transformations are learned in succession, the memory of the first is overwritten by learning of the second; the same is true for two opposing visuomotor rotations. This retrograde interference is not seen for all combinations of transformations, however. When a dynamic transformation is learned subsequent to a visuomotor rotation, the presence or absence of interference appears to depend crucially on the structure of the dynamic task: a force-field dependent on the position of the hand produces interference, whereas an inertial load applied lateral to the hand does not. To explain these results, it has been hypothesized that two transformations can be learned without interference if they depend on two different kinematic parameters of movement (such as position and velocity of the hand). Here we demonstrate, contrary to this hypothesis, interference between a dynamic transformation that depends on the position of the hand and one that depends on its velocity. However, the interference was found to be incomplete, supporting the view that the ability to retain motor memories for different tasks depends on the degree to which their representations conflict in working memory.