In this study, we utilized transformed spatial mappings to perturb visuomotor integration in 5-yr-old children and adults. The participants were asked to perform pointing movements under five different conditions of visuomotor rotation (from 0° to 180°), which were designed to reveal explicit vs. implicit representations as well as the mechanisms underlying the visual-motor mapping. Several tests allowed us to separately evaluate sensorimotor (i.e., the dynamic dimension of movement) and cognitive (i.e., the explicit representations of target position and the strategies used by the participants) representations of visuo-proprioceptive distortion. Our results indicate that children do not establish representations in the same manner as adults and that children exhibit multiple visuomotor representations. Sensorimotor representations were relatively precise, presumably due to the recovery of proprioceptive information and efferent copy. Furthermore, a bidirectional mechanism was used to re-map visual and motor spaces. In contrast, cognitive representations were supplied with visual information and followed a unidirectional visual-motor mapping. Therefore, it appears that sensorimotor mechanisms develop before the use of explicit strategies during development, and young children showed impaired visuomotor adaptation when confronted with large distortions.
Assessing implicit learning in the continuous pursuit-tracking task usually concerns a repeated segment of target displacements masked by two random segments, as referred to as Pews paradigm. Evidence for segment learning in this paradigm is scanty and contrasts with robust sequence learning in discrete tracking tasks. The present study investigates this issue with two experiments in which participants (N = 56) performed a continuous tracking task. Contrary to Pews paradigm, participants were presented with a training sequence that was continuously cycled during 14 blocks of practice, but Block 12 in which a transfer sequence was introduced. Results demonstrate sequence learning in several conditions except in the condition that was obviously the most similar to previous studies failing to induce segment learning. Specifically, it is shown here that a target moving too slowly combined with variable time at which target reversal occurs prevents sequence learning. In addition, data from a post-experimental recognition test indicate that sequence learning was associated with explicit perceptual knowledge about the repetitive structure. We propose that learning repetition in a continuous tracking task is conditional on its capacity to (1) allow participants to detect the repeated regularities and (2) restrict feedback-based tracking strategies.
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