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Cognitive and Motor Learning in Internally-Guided Motor Skills.

  • Bera, Krishn1
  • Shukla, Anuj1
  • Bapi, Raju S1
  • 1 Cognitive Science Lab, Kohli Center on Intelligent Systems, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, India. , (India)
Published Article
Frontiers in Psychology
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.604323
PMID: 33897525


Several canonical experimental paradigms (e.g., serial reaction time task, discrete sequence production task, m × n task) have been proposed to study the typical behavioral phenomenon and the nature of learning in sequential keypress tasks. A characteristic feature of most paradigms is that they are representative of externally-specified sequencing-motor tasks where the environment or task paradigm extrinsically provides the sequence of stimuli, i.e., the responses are stimulus-driven. Previous studies utilizing such canonical paradigms have largely overlooked the learning behaviors in a more realistic class of motor tasks that involve internally-guided sequencing-where the sequence of motor actions is self-generated or internally-specified. In this work, we use the grid-navigation task as an instance of internally-guided sequencing to investigate the nature of learning in such paradigms. The participants performed Grid-Sailing Task (GST), which required navigating (by executing sequential keypresses) a 5 × 5 grid from start to goal (SG) position while using a particular key-mapping (KM) among the three cursor-movement directions and the three keyboard buttons. The participants performed two behavioral experiments-Single-SG and Mixed-SG condition. The Single-SG condition required performing GST on a single SG position repeatedly, whereas the Mixed-SG condition involved performing GST using the same KM on two novel SG positions presented in a random, inter-mixed manner. In the Single-SG condition, we show that motor learning contributes to the sequence-specific learning in GST with the repeated execution of the same trajectories. In the Mixed-SG condition, since the participants utilize the previously learned KM, we anticipate a transfer of learning from the Single-SG condition. The acquisition and transfer of a KM-specific internal model facilitates efficient trajectory planning on novel SG conditions. The acquisition of such a KM-specific internal model amounts to trajectory-independent cognitive learning in GST. We show that cognitive learning contributes to the learning in GST by showing transfer-related performance improvements in the Mixed-SG condition. In sum, we show the role of cognitive and motor learning processes in internally-guided sequencing and further make a case for using GST-like grid-navigation paradigms in investigating internally guided skill learning. Copyright © 2021 Bera, Shukla and Bapi.

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