Abstract

The present study addressed the nature of the memory representation for interlimb coordination tasks. For this purpose, the acquisition of a multifrequency (2:1) task with the ipsilateral limbs and transfer to the ipsilateral and contralateral body side was examined. In particular, subjects practiced a 2:1 coordination pattern whereby the right arm moved twice as fast as the right leg, or vice versa. Subsequently, they transferred the practiced 2:1 task to three different conditions: (1) the converse partner (i.e., the slow-moving limb had to move fast, and vice versa) at the ipsilateral body side, and (2) the identical and (3) converse 2:1 pattern at the contralateral body side. Findings revealed positive transfer of the identical and converse 2:1 pattern to the contralateral body side. However, no transfer of the learned pattern to its converse partner at the same body side was revealed. We propose a new memory representation model for coordination patterns, composed of an effector-independent and effector-specific component (dual-layer model). It is hypothesized that the general movement goal (i.e., moving one limb twice as fast as the other) constitutes the abstract, higher-level representation that may account for positive contralateral transfer. Conversely, the effector-specific component contains task-specific lower-level muscle synergies that are acquired through practice, prohibiting positive transfer when shifting task allocation within the same effectors. These findings are consistent with recent neuroscientific evidence for neuroplastic changes in distributed brain areas.

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