We are interested in the effect of feedback on the rate and extent of motor skill learning and adaptation. Our intent is to apply the results of our investigations to the design of a more effective strategy for the rehabilitation of recovering stroke patients.
It has long been known that assistive training, training that restricts a person to a certain "optimal" performance, is detrimental to skill acquisition and retention. This may be because using such assistive training methods prevent the learner from making any errors and therefore learning how to correct for them when asked to do the task alone. Allowing learners to make mistakes is the key to more successful training. In fact, there are indications that training methods that amplify the errors that learners make may even produce faster and more extensive learning.
We would like to apply this to the treatment of stroke survivors. The approach usually taken is to move the patient's affected limbs in certain ways while they passively follow. While this repetitive movement can aid in motor recovery, it is probable that using error augmentation techniques may speed that recovery.
Currently, we are focusing on the role of visual feedback and error augmentation in the adaptation of healthy individuals during target-hitting tasks. We have already tested various methods of visual error augmentation and found that it did indeed allow subjects to learn more rapidly. Future studies will investigate other modes of augmentation as well as how these modes can be applied to rehabilitation and therapy.