Dissociating effects of error size, training duration, and amount of adaptation on the ability to retain motor memories

Laith Alhussein, Eghbal A. Hosseini, Katrina P. Nguyen, Maurice A. Smith, Wilsaan M. Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Extensive computational and neurobiological work has focused on how the training schedule, i.e., the duration and rate at which an environmental disturbance is presented, shapes the formation of motor memories. If long-lasting benefits are to be derived from motor training, however, retention of the performance improvements gained during practice is essential. Thus a better understanding of mechanisms that promote retention could lead to the design of more effective training procedures. The few studies that have investigated how retention depends on the training schedule have suggested that the gradual exposure of a perturbation leads to improved retention of motor memory compared with an abrupt exposure. However, several of these previous studies showed small effects, and although some controlled the training duration and others the level of learning, none have controlled both. In the present study we disambiguated both of these effects from exposure rate by systematically varying the duration of training, type of trained dynamics, and exposure rate for these dynamics in human force-field adaptation. After controlling for both training duration and the amount of learning, we found essentially identical retention when comparing gradual and abrupt training for two different types of force-field dynamics. By contrast, we found that retention was markedly higher for long-duration compared with short-duration training for both types of dynamics. These results demonstrate that the duration of training has a far greater effect on the retention of motor memory than the exposure rate during training. We show that a multirate learning model provides a computational mechanism for these findings.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Previous studies have suggested that a gradual, incremental introduction of a novel environment is helpful for improving retention. However, we used experimental and computational approaches to demonstrate that previously reported improvements in retention associated with gradual introductions fail to persist when other factors, including the duration of training and the degree of initial learning, are accounted for.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2027-2042
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • error size
  • motor adaptation
  • retention
  • training schedule

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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