An isometric torque-production task was used to investigate interference and retention in adaptation to multiple visuomotor environments. Subjects produced isometric flexion-extension and pronation-supination elbow torques to move a cursor to acquire targets as quickly as possible. Adaptation to a 30 degrees counter-clockwise (CCW) rotation (task A), was followed by a period of rest (control), trials with no rotation (task B0), or trials with a 60 degrees clockwise (CW) rotation (task B60). For all groups, retention of task A was assessed 5 h later. With initial training, all groups reduced the angular deviation of cursor paths early in the movements, indicating feedforward adaptation. For the control group, performance at commencement of the retest was significantly better than that at the beginning of the initial learning. For the B0 group, performance in the retest of task A was not dissimilar to that at the start of the initial learning, while for the B60 group retest performance in task A was markedly worse than initially observed. Our results indicate that close juxtaposition of two visuomotor environments precludes improved retest performance in the initial environment. Data for the B60 group, specifically larger angular errors upon retest compared with initial exposures, are consistent with the presence of anterograde interference. Furthermore, full interference occurred even when the visuomotor environment encountered in the second task was not rotated (B0). This latter novel result differs from those obtained for force field learning, where interference does not occur when task B does not impose perturbing forces, i.e., when B consists of a null field (Brashers-Krug et al., Nature 382:252-255, 1996). The results are consistent with recent proposals suggesting different interference mechanisms for visuomotor (kinematic) compared to force field (dynamic) adaptations, and have implications for the use of washout trials when studying interference between multiple visuomotor environments.
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