Effect of coordinate frame compatibility on the transfer of implicit and explicit learning across limbs

Eugene Poh, Timothy J. Carroll, Jordan A. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Insights into the neural representation of motor learning can be obtained by investigating how learning transfers to novel task conditions. We recently demonstrated that visuomotor rotation learning transferred strongly between left and right limbs when the task was performed in a sagittal workspace, which afforded a consistent remapping for the two limbs in both extrinsic and joint-based coordinates. In contrast, transfer was absent when performed in horizontal workspace, where the extrinsically defined perturbation required conflicting joint-based remapping for the left and right limbs. Because visuomotor learning is thought to be supported by both implicit and explicit forms of learning, however, it is unclear to what extent these distinct forms of learning contribute to interlimb transfer. In this study, we assessed the degree to which interlimb transfer, following visuomotor rotation training, reflects explicit vs. implicit learning by obtaining verbal reports of participants’ aiming direction before each movement. We also determined the extent to which these distinct components of learning are constrained by the compatibility of coordinate systems by comparing transfer between groups of participants who reached to targets arranged in the horizontal and sagittal planes. Both sagittal and horizontal conditions displayed complete transfer of explicit learning to the untrained limb. In contrast, transfer of implicit learning was incomplete, but the sagittal condition showed greater transfer than the horizontal condition. These findings suggest that explicit strategies developed with one limb can be fully implemented in the opposite limb, whereas implicit transfer depends on the degree to which new sensorimotor maps are spatially compatible for the two limbs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1239-1249
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


  • Explicit learning
  • Implicit learning
  • Interlimb transfer
  • Visuomotor learning


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