Relative sensitivity of explicit reaiming and implicit motor adaptation

Sarah A. Hutter, Jordan A. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


It has become increasingly clear that learning in visuomotor rotation tasks, which induce an angular mismatch between movements of the hand and visual feedback, largely results from the combined effort of two distinct processes: implicit motor adaptation and explicit reaiming. However, it remains unclear how these two processes work together to produce trial-by-trial learning. Previous work has found that implicit motor adaptation operates automatically, regardless of task relevance, and saturates for large errors. In contrast, little is known about the automaticity of explicit reaiming and its sensitivity to error magnitude. Here we sought to characterize the automaticity and sensitivity function of these two processes to determine how they work together to facilitate performance in a visuomotor rotation task. We found that implicit adaptation scales relative to the visual error but only for small perturbations—replicating prior work. In contrast, explicit reaiming scales linearly for all tested perturbation sizes. Furthermore, the consistency of the perturbation appears to diminish both implicit adaptation and explicit reaiming, but to different degrees. Whereas implicit adaptation always displayed a response to the error, explicit reaiming was only engaged when errors displayed a minimal degree of consistency. This comports with the idea that implicit adaptation is obligatory and less flexible, whereas explicit reaiming is volitional and flexible. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This paper provides the first psychometric sensitivity function for explicit reaiming. Additionally, we show that the sensitivities of both implicit adaptation and explicit reaiming are influenced by consistency of errors. The pattern of results across two experiments further supports the idea that implicit adaptation is largely inflexible, whereas explicit reaiming is flexible and can be suppressed when unnecessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2640-2648
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


  • Explicit reaiming
  • Implicit adaptation
  • Motor adaptation
  • Motor control
  • Motor learning


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