We investigated the role of visual feedback of task performance in visuomotor adaptation. Participants produced novel two degrees of freedom movements (elbow flexion-extension, forearm pronation-supination) to move a cursor towards visual targets. Following trials with no rotation, participants were exposed to a 60A degrees visuomotor rotation, before returning to the non-rotated condition. A colour cue on each trial permitted identification of the rotated/non-rotated contexts. Participants could not see their arm but received continuous and concurrent visual feedback (CF) of a cursor representing limb position or post-trial visual feedback (PF) representing the movement trajectory. Separate groups of participants who received CF were instructed that online modifications of their movements either were, or were not, permissible as a means of improving performance. Feedforward-mediated performance improvements occurred for both CF and PF groups in the rotated environment. Furthermore, for CF participants this adaptation occurred regardless of whether feedback modifications of motor commands were permissible. Upon re-exposure to the non-rotated environment participants in the CF, but not PF, groups exhibited post-training aftereffects, manifested as greater angular deviations from a straight initial trajectory, with respect to the pre-rotation trials. Accordingly, the nature of the performance improvements that occurred was dependent upon the timing of the visual feedback of task performance. Continuous visual feedback of task performance during task execution appears critical in realising automatic visuomotor adaptation through a recalibration of the visuomotor mapping that transforms visual inputs into appropriate motor commands.
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