Stimulation of the human motor cortex alters generalization patterns of motor learning

Jean Jacques Orban de Xivry, Mollie K. Marko, Sarah E. Pekny, Damien Pastor, Jun Izawa, Pablo Celnik, Reza Shadmehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It has been hypothesized that the generalization patterns that accompany learning carry the signatures of the neural systems that are engaged in that learning. Reach adaptation in force fields has generalization patterns that suggest primary engagement of a neural system that encodes movements in the intrinsic coordinates of joints and muscles, and lesser engagement of a neural system that encodes movements in the extrinsic coordinates of the task. Among the cortical motor areas, the intrinsic coordinate system is most prominently represented in the primary sensorimotor cortices. Here, we used transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to alter mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and found that when it was applied to the motor cortex, it increased generalization in intrinsic coordinates but not extrinsic coordinates. However, when tDCS was applied to the posterior parietal cortex, it had no effects on learning or generalization in the force field task. The results suggest that during force field adaptation, the component of learning that produces generalization in intrinsic coordinates depends on the plasticity in the sensorimotor cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7102-7110
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 11 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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