Learning and transfer of bimanual multifrequency patterns: effector-independent and effector-specific levels of movement representation
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- Vangheluwe, S., Suy, E., Wenderoth, N. et al. Exp Brain Res (2006) 170: 543. doi:10.1007/s00221-005-0238-0
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Current behavioural theories consider that during motor learning, an effector-independent memory representation of the acquired skill is built up. Using a transfer paradigm, we addressed the nature of the memory representation for a 2:1 multifrequency co-ordination task, requiring, for example, the left arm to cycle twice as fast as the right. After learning this 2:1 pattern, transfer to its converse pattern (i.e., the right arm cycles twice as fast as the left) revealed powerful evidence for negative transfer. The converse task arrangement revealed similar effects. These observations suggest a reconsideration of current viewpoints on movement representations, which emphasize effector independence. Based on the present findings, we propose a new model of motor memory, consisting of an abstract, effector-independent and an effector-specific layer. The abstract code is hypothesized to represent general spatiotemporal movement features, whereas the specific representation refers to effector-related movement commands. This concept is consistent with recent neuroscientific evidence in animal and human species, and invites a reconsideration of current behavioural theories of motor learning and memory.