Neural correlates of motor learning and performance in a virtual ball putting task

Lorenzo Pitto*, Vladimir Novakovic, Angelo Basteris, Vittorio Sanguineti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Learning to move skillfully requires that the motor system adjusts motor commands based on ongoing performance, until the task is executed satisfactorily. Robots can be used to emulate motor tasks that involve haptic interaction with objects. These studies may provide useful insights on how humans acquire a novel motor skill. Here we address motor skill learning in a 2D ball putting task, by looking at both kinematic and EEG correlates of learning and performance. Participants grasped the handle of a manipulandum and had to hit a virtual ball in order to put it into a target region (hole). The robot was used to render the contact force with the ball during impact. At every trial, with respect to the initial ball position, the hole appeared in one of three different directions and two distances, selected randomly. The experimental protocol included a total of 300 movements. In movement kinematics we looked at the effects of learning and target distance. In EEG signals, we looked at the effect of learning and the effect of success/failure on the ongoing brain activity. Subjects managed to improve their performance through practice, in all directions and at both target distances. Direction did not affect the performance much, but greater target distance induced greater errors. With regards to the EEG activity, we found that (i) practice led to an increased theta synchronization in the frontal areas; (ii) successful trials were preceded by higher theta synchronization, and alpha and beta desynchronization. These results suggest that EEG signals can be used to monitor the learning process and to predict the outcome (success/failure) of individual trials. These findings open possibilities to develop new schemes to promote and facilitate learning, which integrate EEG and robots.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2011 IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, ICORR 2011 - Rehab Week Zurich 2011
Publication date2011
Article number5975487
ISBN (Print)9781424498628
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventRehab Week Zurich 2011 - 2011 IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, ICORR 2011 - Zurich, Switzerland
Duration: 27. Jun 20111. Jul 2011

Conference

ConferenceRehab Week Zurich 2011 - 2011 IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, ICORR 2011
Country/TerritorySwitzerland
CityZurich
Period27/06/201101/07/2011
SeriesIEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics
ISSN1945-7898

Keywords

  • ball putting
  • EEG
  • impact
  • motor skill learning

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