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      Representing multiple object weights: competing priors and sensorimotor memories

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          The present study is the first to examine the specificity of learning processes underlying adaption of long-term priors while also examining the ability to form sensorimotor memories for multiple sets of objects simultaneously. In a follow-up study, we directly test the hypothesis that sensorimotor memory involves explicit working memory resources .


          When lifting an object, individuals scale lifting forces based on long-term priors relating external object properties (such as material and size) to object weight. When experiencing objects that are poorly predicted by priors, people rapidly form and update sensorimotor memories that can be used to predict an object's atypical size-weight relation in support of predictively scaling lift forces. With extensive experience in lifting such objects, long-term priors, assessed with weight judgments, are gradually updated. The aim of the present study was to understand the formation and updating of these memory processes. Participants lifted, over multiple days, a set of black cubes with a normal size-weight mapping and green cubes with an inverse size-weight mapping. Sensorimotor memory was assessed with lifting forces, and priors associated with the black and green cubes were assessed with the size-weight illusion (SWI). Interference was observed in terms of adaptation of the SWI, indicating that priors were not independently adjusted. Half of the participants rapidly learned to scale lift forces appropriately, whereas reduced learning was observed in the others, suggesting that individual differences may be affecting sensorimotor memory abilities. A follow-up experiment showed that lifting forces are not accurately scaled to objects when concurrently performing a visuomotor association task, suggesting that sensorimotor memory formation involves cognitive resources to instantiate the mapping between object identity and weight, potentially explaining the results of experiment 1. These results provide novel insight into the formation and updating of sensorimotor memories and provide support for the independent adjustment of sensorimotor memory and priors.

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          Author and article information

          J Neurophysiol
          J. Neurophysiol
          Journal of Neurophysiology
          American Physiological Society (Bethesda, MD )
          6 July 2016
          1 October 2016
          1 October 2017
          : 116
          : 4
          : 1615-1625
          1Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada;
          2Physiology Section, Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden; and
          3Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
          Author notes
          Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: J. R. Flanagan, Dept. of Psychology, Queen's Univ., Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada (e-mail: flanagan@ 123456queensu.ca ).
          PMC5144702 PMC5144702 5144702 JN-00282-2016
          Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
          Funded by: http://doi.org/10.13039/501100000038 Gouvernement du Canada | Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Conseil de Recherches en Sciences Naturelles et en Génie du Canada)
          Funded by: http://doi.org/10.13039/501100000024 Gouvernement du Canada | Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Instituts de recherche en santé du Canada)
          Higher Neural Functions and Behavior


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