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Financial incentives enhance adaptation to a sensorimotor transformation

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Adaptation to sensorimotor transformations has received much attention in recent years. However, the role of motivation and its relation to the implicit and explicit processes underlying adaptation has been neglected thus far. Here, we examine the influence of extrinsic motivation on adaptation to a visuomotor rotation by way of providing financial incentives for accurate movements. Participants in the experimental group “bonus” received a defined amount of money for high end-point accuracy in a visuomotor rotation task; participants in the control group “no bonus” did not receive a financial incentive. Results showed better overall adaptation to the visuomotor transformation in participants who were extrinsically motivated. However, there was no beneficial effect of financial incentives on the implicit component, as assessed by the after-effects, and on separately assessed explicit knowledge. These findings suggest that the positive influence of financial incentives on adaptation is due to a component which cannot be measured by after-effects or by our test of explicit knowledge. A likely candidate is model-free learning based on reward-prediction errors, which could be enhanced by the financial bonuses.

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This research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft to Sandra Sülzenbrück (DFG SU 693/1-1). We wish to thank Jacqueline Paschke and Maleen Greine for running the experiment.

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Correspondence to Kathrin Gajda.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were approved by the Ethics Commission of the Leibniz Research Centre and were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Gajda, K., Sülzenbrück, S. & Heuer, H. Financial incentives enhance adaptation to a sensorimotor transformation. Exp Brain Res 234, 2859–2868 (2016).

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