Indexed on: 26 Oct '18Published on: 26 Oct '18Published in: The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Recent work has shown that, when countering external forces, the nervous system adjusts not only predictive (ie. feedforward) control of reaching but also reflex (ie. feedback) responses to mechanical perturbations. Here we show that altering the physical properties of the arm (i.e. intersegmental dynamics) causes the nervous system to adjust feedforward control and that this learning transfers to feedback responses even though the latter were never directly trained. Forty-five human participants (30 females) performed a single-joint elbow reaching task and countered mechanical perturbations that created pure elbow motion. In our first experiment, we altered intersegmental dynamics by asking participants to generate pure elbow movements when the shoulder joint was either free to rotate or locked by the robotic manipulandum. With the shoulder unlocked, we found robust activation of shoulder flexor muscles for pure elbow flexion trials - as required to counter the interaction torques that arise at the shoulder due to forearm rotation. After locking the shoulder joint, which cancels these interaction torques, we found a substantial reduction in shoulder muscle activity over many trials. In our second experiment, we tested whether such learning transfers to feedback control. Mechanical perturbations applied to the arm with the shoulder unlocked revealed that feedback responses also account for intersegmental dynamics. After locking the shoulder joint, we found a substantial reduction in shoulder feedback responses - as appropriate for the altered intersegmental dynamics. Our work suggests that feedforward and feedback control share an internal model of the arm's dynamics.Here we show that altering the physical properties of the arm causes people to learn new motor commands and that this learning transfers to their reflex responses to unexpected mechanical perturbations, even though the reflex responses were never directly trained. Our results suggest that feedforward motor commands and reflex responses share an internal model of the arm's dynamics. Copyright © 2018 the authors.