Motor learning by field approximation

F. Gandolfo, F. A. Mussa-Ivaldi*, E. Bizzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

369 Scopus citations


We investigated how human subjects adapt to forces perturbing the motion of their arms. We found that this kind of learning is based on the capacity of the central nervous system (CNS) to predict and therefore to cancel externally applied perturbing forces. Our experimental results indicate: (i) that the ability of the CNS to compensate for the perturbing forces is restricted to those spatial locations where the perturbations have been experienced by the moving arm. The subjects also are able to compensate for forces experienced at neighboring workspace locations. However, adaptation decays smoothly and quickly with distance from the locations where disturbances had been sensed by the moving limb. (ii) Our experiments also show that the CNS builds an internal model of the external perturbing forces in intrinsic (muscles and/or joints) coordinates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3843-3846
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 30 1996


  • adaptation
  • arm trajectories
  • generalization of learning
  • intrinsic coordinates
  • regularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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