Time course and temporal order of changes in movement kinematics during learning of fast and accurate elbow flexions

D. Flament*, M. B. Shapiro, T. Kempf, D. M. Corcos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Learning of a motor task, such as making accurate goal-directed movements, is associated with a number of changes in limb kinematics and in the EMG activity that produces the movement. Some of these changes include increases in movement velocity, improvements in end-point accuracy, and the development of a biphasic/triphasic EMG pattern for fast movements. One question that has remained unanswered is whether the time course of the learning-related changes in movement parameters is similar for all parameters. The present paper focuses on this question and presents evidence that different parameters evolve with a specific temporal order. Neurologically normal subjects were trained to make horizontal, planar movements of the elbow that were both fast and accurate. The performance of the subjects was monitored over the course of 400 movements made during experiments lasting approximately 1.5 h. We measured time-related parameters (duration of acceleration, duration of deceleration, and movement duration) and amplitude-related parameters (peak acceleration, peak deceleration, peak velocity), as well as movement distance. In addition, each subject's reaction time and EMG activity was monitored. We found that reaction time was the parameter that changed the fastest and that reached a steady baseline earliest. Time-related parameters decreased at a somewhat slower rate and plateaued next. Amplitude-related parameters were slowest in reaching steady-state values. In subjects making the fastest movements, a triphasic EMG patterns was observed to develop. Our findings reveal that movement parameters change with different time courses during the process of motor learning. The results are discussed in terms of the neural substrates that may be responsible for the differences in this aspect of motor learning and skill acquisition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-450
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Elbow movement
  • Human
  • Kinematics
  • Motor learning
  • Reaction time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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