Adults can easily learn and access multiple versions of the same motor skill adapted for different conditions (e.g., walking in water, sand, snow). Following even a single session of adaptation, adults exhibit clear day-to-day retention and faster re-learning of the adapted pattern. Here, we studied the retention and re-learning of an adapted walking pattern in children aged 6-17 yr. We found that all children, regardless of age, showed adult-like patterns of retention of the adapted walking pattern. In contrast, children under 12 yr of age did not re-learn faster on the next day after washout had occurred - they behaved as if they had never adapted their walking before. Re-learning could be improved in younger children when the adaptation time on day 1 was increased to allow more practice at the plateau of the adapted pattern, but never to adult-like levels. These results show that the ability to store a separate, adapted version of the same general motor pattern does not fully develop until adolescence, and furthermore, that the mechanisms underlying the retention and rapid re-learning of adapted motor patterns are distinct.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience