Active Prospective Control Necessary for Sensorimotor Learning

Recent research studied 36 adults with no history of motor or neurological impairments were assigned to one of three groups – active (participant actively guides movement), passive (therapist or robot guides movement) or control group.  This study used haptic tracking for the passive movement.  The results indicated the following:

  • no effective learning with passive movement while active practice with prospective control resulted in significant improvements in performance.
  • for the passive movement it was not the inaction that was the problem but the lack of prospective control was the issue.

The researchers concluded that the results suggest:

  • active generation and control of limb movements is required for effective motor learning. 
  • passive forms of training did not yield good learning. 
  • ‘active’ means does not simply mean stimulated musculature and active sensorimotor loops, that was present in during the passive training task, but these factors alone failed to yield good learning.
  • active means prospective control of limb movement trajectories, control in which perceptual information is used to anticipate the required trajectory and to overcome potential inaccuracy and instability caused by biologically determined delays in control. 
  • the results present a challenge when developing robotic interventions for people with movement disorders.

The researchers suggest to only provide when the limb leaves a pre-defined zone to allow active control of the movement.

You can read the full text article here

Reference: Snapp-Childs W, Casserly E, Mon-Williams M, Bingham GP. Active prospective control is required for effective sensorimotor learning. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 23;8(10):e77609. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077609.