Previous studies of motor learning have described the importance of cognitive processes during the early stages of learning; however, the precise nature of these processes and their neural correlates remains unclear. The present study investigated whether spatial working memory (SWM) contributes to visuomotor adaptation depending on the stage of learning. We tested the hypothesis that SWM would contribute early in the adaptation process by measuring (i) the correlation between SWM tasks and the rate of adaptation, and (ii) the overlap between the neural substrates of a SWM mental rotation task and visuomotor adaptation. Participants completed a battery of neuropsychological tests, a visuomotor adaptation task, and an SWM task involving mental rotation, with the latter two tasks performed in a 3.0-T MRI scanner. Performance on a neuropsychological test of SWM (two-dimensional mental rotation) correlated with the rate of early, but not late, visuomotor adaptation. During the early, but not late, adaptation period, participants showed overlapping brain activation with the SWM mental rotation task, in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the bilateral inferior parietal lobules. These findings suggest that the early, but not late, phase of visuomotor adaptation engages SWM processes.

You do not currently have access to this content.