The ability to generalize learned motor actions to new contexts is a key feature of the motor system. For example, the ability to ride a bicycle or swing a racket is often first developed at lower speeds and later applied to faster velocities. A number of previous studies have examined the generalization of motor adaptation across movement directions and found that the learned adaptation decays in a pattern consistent with the existence of motor primitives that display narrow Gaussian tuning. However, few studies have examined the generalization of motor adaptation across movement speeds. Following adaptation to linear velocity-dependent dynamics during point-to-point reaching arm movements at one speed, we tested the ability of subjects to transfer this adaptation to short-duration higher-speed movements aimed at the same target. We found near-perfect linear extrapolation of the trained adaptation with respect to both the magnitude and the time course of the velocity profiles associated with the high-speed movements: a 69% increase in movement speed corresponded to a 74% extrapolation of the trained adaptation. The close match between the increase in movement speed and the corresponding increase in adaptation beyond what was trained indicates linear hypergeneralization. Computational modeling shows that this pattern of linear hypergeneralization across movement speeds is not compatible with previous models of adaptation in which motor primitives display isotropic Gaussian tuning of motor output around their preferred velocities. Instead, we show that this generalization pattern indicates that the primitives involved in the adaptation to viscous dynamics display anisotropic tuning in velocity space and encode the gain between motor output and motion state rather than motor output itself.
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