Skip to main content
Log in

Task-dependent motor learning

  • Research Note
  • Published:
Experimental Brain Research Aims and scope Submit manuscript


We examined whether task-dependent modulation was evident in a motor learning paradigm. Subjects performed reaching movements before, during, and after exposure to a novel force perturbation while adopting either a spatial goal, "continue towards the target", or an effort goal, "keep your effort profile the same". Before the perturbation, the hand trajectories were moderately straight and accurate regardless of the task. However, during and immediately after the perturbation, the reaches exhibited unambiguous task-dependent differences in both the initial and terminal periods of the reach. With the spatial goal, subjects showed terminal compensations to the force-induced displacements indicative of feedback control. In addition, feedforward control was evident in the smaller path deviations with continued exposure and the initial path aftereffects when the perturbation was removed. In contrast, when adopting an effort goal, subjects showed large and chronically deviated endpoints from the perturbation indicating an absence of feedback compensation. They also showed no feedforward adaptation during repeated exposure or visible aftereffects when the perturbation was removed. Therefore, both feedforward and feedback control mechanisms show task-dependent modulation in a motor learning paradigm.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Burgess PR, Jones LF (1997) Perceptions of effort and heaviness during fatigue and during the size-weight illusion. Somatosens Mot Res 14:189–202

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Burgess PR, Cooper TA, Gottlieb GL, Latash ML (1995) The sense of effort and two models of single-joint motor control. Somatosens Mot Res 12:343–358

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Burgess PR, Jones LF, Buhler CF, Dewald JPA, Zhang L-Q, Rymer WZ (2002) Muscular torque generation during imposed joint rotation: torque-angle relationships when the subject's only goal is to make a constant effort. Somatosens Mot Res 19:327–340

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cole J, Sedgwick EM (1992) The perceptions of force and of movement in a man without large myelinated sensory afferents below the neck. J Physiol 449:503–515

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Colebatch JG, McCloskey DI (1987) Maintenance of constant arm position or force: reflex and volitional components in man. J Physiol 386:247–261

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Diedrichsen J, Verstynen T, Hon A, Lehman SL, Ivry RB (2003) Anticipatory adjustments in the unloading task: is an efference copy necessary for learning? Exp Brain Res 148:272–276

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • DiZio P, Lackner JR (1995) Motor adaptation to Coriolis force perturbations of reaching movements: endpoint but not trajectory adaptation transfers to the nonexposed arm. J Neurophysiol 74:1787–1792

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Evarts E, Granit R (1976) Relations of reflexes and intended movements. Prog Brain Res 44:1–14

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Fourneret P, Paillard J, Lamarre Y, Cole J, Jeannerod M (2002) Lack of conscious recognition of one's own actions in a haptically deafferented patient. Neuroreport 13:541–547

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gandevia SC (1982) The perception of motor commands or effort during muscular paralysis. Brain 105:151–159

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gandevia SC, Burke D (1992) Does the nervous system depend on kinesthetic information to control natural limb movements? Behav Brain Sci 12–30

  • Goodbody S, Wolpert DM (1998) Temporal and amplitude generalization in motor learning. J Neurophysiol 79:1825–1838

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jordan MI, Rumelhart DE (1992) Forward models: supervised learning with a distal teacher. Cog Sci 16:307–354

    Google Scholar 

  • Lackner JR, DiZio P (1994) Rapid adaptation to Coriolis force perturbations of arm trajectory. J Neurophysiol 72:299–313

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Matthews PBC (1988) Proprioceptors and their contribution to somatosensory mapping: complex messages require complex processing. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 66:430–438

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • McCloskey DI (1983) Corollary discharges: motor commands and perception. In: Mouncastle V (ed) Handbook of physiology, pp 1415–1446

  • McCloskey DI, Ebeling P, Goodwin GM (1974) Estimation of weights and tensions and apparent involvement of a "sense of effort". Exp Neurol 42:220–232

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Prochazka A, Hulliger M, Zangger P, Appenteng K (1985) "Fusimotor set": new evidence for alpha-independent control of gamma-motoneurons during movement in the awake cat. Brain Res 339:136–140

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Roland PE, Ladegaard-Pedersen H (1977) A quantitative analysis of sensations of tension and of kinaesthesia in man: evidence for a peripherally originating muscular sense and for a sense of effort. Brain 100:671–692

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rothwell JC, Traub MM, Day BL, Obeso JA, Thomas PK, Marsden CD (1982) Manual motor performance in a deafferented man. Brain 105:515–542

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sainburg RL, Ghez C, Kalakanis D (1999) Intersegmental dynamics are controlled by sequential anticipatory, error correction, and postural mechanisms. J Neurophysiol 81:1045–1056

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Shadmehr M, Muss-Ivaldi FA (1994) Adaptive representation of dynamics during learning of a motor task. J Neurosci 14:3208–3224

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Stein RB, Capaday C (1988) The modulation of human reflexes during functional motor tasks. Trends Neurosci 11:328–332

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Watson JD, Colebatch JG, McCloskey DI (1984) Effects of externally imposed elastic loads on the ability to estimate position and force. Behav Brain Res 13:267–271

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wolpert DM, Ghahramani Z, Jordan M (1995) An internal model for sensorimotor integration. Science 269:1880–1882

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Zehr EP, Stein RB (1999) What functions do reflexes serve during human locomotion? Prog Neurobiol 58:185–205

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by National Aeronautics and Space Administration grants: NA69–1263; NA69–1483.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Isaac Kurtzer.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kurtzer, I., DiZio, P. & Lackner, J. Task-dependent motor learning. Exp Brain Res 153, 128–132 (2003).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: