Plan-based generalization shapes local implicit adaptation to opposing visuomotor transformations
The human ability to use different tools demonstrates our capability of forming and maintaining multiple, context-specific motor memories. Experimentally, this has been investigated in dual adaptation, where participants adjust their reaching movements to opposing visuomotor transformations. Adaptation in these paradigms occurs by distinct processes, such as strategies for each transformation or the implicit acquisition of distinct visuomotor mappings. Although distinct, transformation-dependent aftereffects have been interpreted as support for the latter, they could reflect adaptation of a single visuomotor map, which is locally adjusted in different regions of the workspace. Indeed, recent studies suggest that explicit aiming strategies direct where in the workspace implicit adaptation occurs, thus potentially serving as a cue to enable dual adaptation. Disentangling these possibilities is critical to understanding how humans acquire and maintain motor memories for different skills and tools. We therefore investigated generalization of explicit and implicit adaptation to untrained movement directions after participants practiced two opposing cursor rotations, which were associated with the visual display being presented in the left or right half of the screen. Whereas participants learned to compensate for opposing rotations by explicit strategies specific to this visual workspace cue, aftereffects were not cue sensitive. Instead, aftereffects displayed bimodal generalization patterns that appeared to reflect locally limited learning of both transformations. By varying target arrangements and instructions, we show that these patterns are consistent with implicit adaptation that generalizes locally around movement plans associated with opposing visuomotor transformations. Our findings show that strategies can shape implicit adaptation in a complex manner. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Visuomotor dual adaptation experiments have identified contextual cues that enable learning of separate visuomotor mappings, but the underlying representations of learning are unclear. We report that visual workspace separation as a contextual cue enables the compensation of opposing cursor rotations by a combination of explicit and implicit processes: Learners developed context-dependent explicit aiming strategies, whereas an implicit visuomotor map represented dual adaptation independent from arbitrary context cues by local adaptation around the explicit movement plan.