Multiple Motor Learning Processes in Humans: Defining Their Neurophysiological Bases

Danny Spampinato, Pablo Celnik

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Learning new motor behaviors or adjusting previously learned actions to account for dynamic changes in our environment requires the operation of multiple distinct motor learning processes, which rely on different neuronal substrates. For instance, humans are capable of acquiring new motor patterns via the formation of internal model representations of the movement dynamics and through positive reinforcement. In this review, we will discuss how changes in human physiological markers, assessed with noninvasive brain stimulation techniques from distinct brain regions, can be utilized to provide insights toward the distinct learning processes underlying motor learning. We will summarize the findings from several behavioral and neurophysiological studies that have made efforts to understand how distinct processes contribute to and interact when learning new motor behaviors. In particular, we will extensively review two types of behavioral processes described in human sensorimotor learning: (1) a recalibration process of a previously learned movement and (2) acquiring an entirely new motor control policy, such as learning to play an instrument. The selected studies will demonstrate in-detail how distinct physiological mechanisms contributions change depending on the time course of learning and the type of behaviors being learned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-267
Number of pages22
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • TMS
  • brain stimulation
  • motor learning
  • physiology
  • skill learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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