An implicit memory of errors limits human sensorimotor adaptation

Scott T. Albert, Jihoon Jang, Hannah R. Sheahan, Lonneke Teunissen, Koenraad Vandevoorde, David J. Herzfeld, Reza Shadmehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During extended motor adaptation, learning appears to saturate despite persistence of residual errors. This adaptation limit is not fixed but varies with perturbation variance; when variance is high, residual errors become larger. These changes in total adaptation could relate to either implicit or explicit learning systems. Here, we found that when adaptation relied solely on the explicit system, residual errors disappeared and learning was unaltered by perturbation variability. In contrast, when learning depended entirely, or in part, on implicit learning, residual errors reappeared. Total implicit adaptation decreased in the high-variance environment due to changes in error sensitivity, not in forgetting. These observations suggest a model in which the implicit system becomes more sensitive to errors when they occur in a consistent direction. Thus, residual errors in motor adaptation are at least in part caused by an implicit learning system that modulates its error sensitivity in response to the consistency of past errors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)920-934
Number of pages15
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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