Experimental brain research vol:160 issue:2 pages:180-188
The present study addressed whether the timing of muscle activation and the relative direction of limb movements are dissociable constraints that may affect learning and transfer of bimanual coordination patterns, either independently or in combination. Subjects were assigned to two experimental groups in which the to-be-learned muscular phasing (135degrees) was either practiced with 45degrees (i.e., predominantly isodirectional) or 135degrees (i.e., predominantly nonisodirectional) of spatial relative phase (RP) across 2 days of practice. Prior to, during, and following practice, probe tests were held in which various relative phasing patterns were administered to assess transfer of learning. Converging evidence was obtained that the relative direction of moving limbs prominently constrained transfer of learning rather than muscular relationships. Acquisition of a specific pattern resulted in spontaneous positive transfer of learning to a new coordination pattern having the same spatial RP but not to a pattern with a different spatial RP, irrespective of muscular phasing relationships. In summary, the present results suggest that learning and transfer of coordination patterns is mediated by abstract directional codes that become part of the memory representation for bimanual coordination.