It has been shown that learning visuomotor rotations with multiple target directions, compared with a single target direction, leads to greater generalization to untrained targets within the same limb. This implies that multiple direction learning results in a more complete internal model of the visuomotor transform. It has also been documented that the extent of transfer of movement information regarding visuomotor adaptations between the limbs is limited, relative to that between different configurations of the same limb. The present study thus investigated the origin of this restriction in interlimb transfer, by comparing the effects of eight-direction and one-direction training conditions with one arm on the subsequent performance with the other arm. It was hypothesized that if multiple direction learning leads to a more complete model of the novel visuomotor transform, interlimb transfer should be enhanced relative to that following single direction training. However, if no differences are observed between single and multiple direction training conditions, this would suggest that such learning is effector dependent. We also tested the hypothesis that interlimb transfer of visuomotor adaptation is not obligatory, by examining the effects of visual rotation direction (same or oppositely directed visuomotor rotations for the two arms). All subjects first adapted to a 30° rotation, either clockwise or counterclockwise, in the visual display during reaching movements. Following this, they adapted to a 30° rotation in either the same or opposing direction with the other arm. Results showed that initial training with the non-dominant arm facilitated subsequent performance with the dominant arm in terms of initial direction control, but only under the same rotation condition. Both single and eight direction training conditions led to substantial transfer in subsequent performance with the other arm, but multiple direction training was no more beneficial than single direction training. This finding suggests that the previously reported intralimb advantages of multiple direction learning are effector specific. Our findings are discussed in the context of hierarchical models of motor control to explain the intralimb advantages of multiple direction training.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes