Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 70, Issue 3, pp 527–538

A model system for motor learning: adaptive gain control of the blink reflex

  • C. Evinger
  • K. A. Manning

DOI: 10.1007/BF00247600

Cite this article as:
Evinger, C. & Manning, K.A. Exp Brain Res (1988) 70: 527. doi:10.1007/BF00247600


An important aspect of the control of movement is how the nervous system produces adaptive gain modification. To investigate this problem in a simple motor system, we studied lid movement and orbicularis oculis muscle activity in human and rabbit subjects during adaptation of reflex eye blinks. The gain of the reflex could be increased or decreased, depending upon the nature of the adaptive stimulus. Since these gain changes could persist upon removal of the adapting stimulus, adaptation appears to result from a modification of the neural program subserving the blink reflex. The orbicularis oculis electromyogram revealed that the neural modifications producing adaptive gain changes predominantly altered the longer latency components of the reflex, while the short latency components remained unchanged. Moreover, in two other paradigms that modulate the gain of reflexes, habituation and reflex modification, similar changes also occured primarily in the longer latency components of the blink reflex. This result suggests that modification of neurons in longer latency, indirect pathways, may underlie different forms of motor learning.

Key words

Adaptive plasticity Blink reflex Orbicularis oculis Habituation Electromyogram 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Evinger
    • 1
  • K. A. Manning
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology and BehaviorSUNY-Stony BrookStony BrookUSA

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