Reza Shadmehr, Tom Brashers-Krug, Ferdinando Mussa-Ivaldi
Experiments were performed to reveal some of the computational properties of the human motor memory system. We show that as humans practice reaching movements while interacting with a novel mechanical environment, they learn an internal model of the inverse dynamics of that environment. Subjects show recall of this model at testing sessions 24 hours after the initial practice. The representation of the internal model in memory is such that there is interference when there is an attempt to learn a new inverse dynamics map immediately after an anticorrelated mapping was learned. We suggest that this interference is an indication that the same computational elements used to encode the first inverse dynamics map are being used to learn the second mapping. We predict that this leads to a forgetting of the initially learned skill.