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Motor adaptation does not differ when a perturbation is introduced abruptly or gradually

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People continuously adapt their movements to ever-changing circumstances, and particularly in skills training and rehabilitation, it is crucial that we understand how to optimize implicit adaptation in order for these processes to require as little conscious effort as possible. Although it is generally assumed that the way to do this is by introducing perturbations gradually, the literature is ambivalent on the effectiveness of this approach. Here, we tested whether there are differences in motor performance when adapting to an abrupt compared to a ramped visuomotor rotation. Using a within-subjects design, we tested this question under 3 different rotation sizes: 30-degrees, 45-degrees, and 60-degrees, as well as in 3 different populations: younger adults, older adults, and patients with mild cerebellar ataxia. We find no significant differences in either the behavioural outcomes, or model fits, between abrupt and gradual learning across any of the different conditions. Neither age, nor cerebellar ataxia had any significant effect on error-sensitivity either. These findings together indicate that error-sensitivity is not modulated by introducing a perturbation abruptly compared to gradually, and is also unaffected by age or mild cerebellar ataxia.

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available in the Open Science Framework repository,

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All data can be found on the OSF repository: Data processing and analysis scripts can be found at


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This work was supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council. DYPH and AB are supported by the Vision Science to Applications program.

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DYPH, BM’t, TE, and AS contributed to the study conception and design. Data collection was performed primarily by AB, UC, BM’t, and TE. Data analysis was completed by BM’t. The manuscript was primarily written by AB, and approved by all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bernard Marius ’t Hart.

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Conflict of interest

The authors have no competing interests to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

Ethical approval

The protocols used in this study were approved by the York Human Participants Review Sub-committee and by the Ethics Committee of the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich (559–15).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Communicated by Melvyn A. Goodale.

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Bansal, A., ’t Hart, B.M., Cauchan, U. et al. Motor adaptation does not differ when a perturbation is introduced abruptly or gradually. Exp Brain Res 241, 2577–2590 (2023).

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