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Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 175, Issue 3, pp 400–410 | Cite as

Neuromuscular-skeletal constraints on the acquisition of skill in a discrete torque production task

  • Jonathan ShemmellEmail author
  • Matthew Forner
  • Benjamin Tathem
  • James R.  Tresilian
  • Stephan Riek
  • Benjamin K. Barry
  • Richard G. Carson
Research Article

Abstract

The organisation of the human neuromuscular-skeletal system allows an extremely wide variety of actions to be performed, often with great dexterity. Adaptations associated with skill acquisition occur at all levels of the neuromuscular-skeletal system although all neural adaptations are inevitably constrained by the organisation of the actuating apparatus (muscles and bones). We quantified the extent to which skill acquisition in an isometric task set is influenced by the mechanical properties of the muscles used to produce the required actions. Initial performance was greatly dependent upon the specific combination of torques required in each variant of the experimental task. Five consecutive days of practice improved the performance to a similar degree across eight actions despite differences in the torques required about the elbow and forearm. The proportional improvement in performance was also similar when the actions were performed at either 20 or 40% of participants’ maximum voluntary torque capacity. The skill acquired during practice was successfully extrapolated to variants of the task requiring more torque than that required during practice. We conclude that while the extent to which skill can be acquired in isometric actions is independent of the specific combination of joint torques required for target acquisition, the nature of the kinetic adaptations leading to the performance improvement in isometric actions is influenced by the neural and mechanical properties of the actuating muscles.

Keywords

Motor learning Practice Force production Elbow Muscle 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Shemmell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew Forner
    • 1
  • Benjamin Tathem
    • 1
  • James R.  Tresilian
    • 1
  • Stephan Riek
    • 1
  • Benjamin K. Barry
    • 1
  • Richard G. Carson
    • 1
  1. 1.Perception and Motor Systems Laboratory, School of Human Movement StudiesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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