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Learning to Perform a Novel Movement Pattern using Haptic Guidance: Slow Learning, Rapid Forgetting, and Attractor Paths


Mechanical guidance is a common technique to teach patients desired movement patterns during motor rehabilitation, but little is known about the motor learning processes involved with this technique. In this study we examined how well unimpaired subjects could learn to trace a novel path after they practiced it with mechanical guidance from a robot. The form of haptic guidance used was a virtual channel that constrained the hand to follow the desired path (a snake-like curve). Subjects substantially improved their ability to trace the path following practice with haptic guidance, relative to their performance following an initial visual demonstration. They slowly improved their performance with more haptic training. However, when asked to reproduce the path repeatedly, their performance degraded over the course of a few trials. The tracing errors were not random, but instead were consistent with a systematic evolution toward another path, as if being drawn to an "attractor path". These results suggest that haptic demonstration can improve short-term performance of a novel desired trajectory. However, in the short term, the motor system is inclined to repeat its mistakes following just a few movements without guidance. © 2005 IEEE.

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