Visual feedback is not necessary for the learning of novel dynamics
When learning to perform a novel sensorimotor task, humans integrate multi-modal sensory feedback such as vision and proprioception in order to make the appropriate adjustments to successfully complete the task. Sensory feedback is used both during movement to control and correct the current movement, and to update the feed-forward motor command for subsequent movements. Previous work has shown that adaptation to stable dynamics is possible without visual feedback. However, it is not clear to what degree visual information during movement contributes to this learning or whether it is essential to the development of an internal model or impedance controller. We examined the effects of the removal of visual feedback during movement on the learning of both stable and unstable dynamics in comparison with the case when both vision and proprioception are available. Subjects were able to learn to make smooth movements in both types of novel dynamics after learning with or without visual feedback. By examining the endpoint stiffness and force after learning it could be shown that subjects adapted to both types of dynamics in the same way whether they were provided with visual feedback of their trajectory or not. The main effects of visual feedback were to increase the success rate of movements, slightly straighten the path, and significantly reduce variability near the end of the movement. These findings suggest that visual feedback of the hand during movement is not necessary for the adaptation to either stable or unstable novel dynamics. Instead vision appears to be used to fine-tune corrections of hand trajectory at the end of reaching movements.