To transfer or not to transfer? Kinematics and laterality quotient predict interlimb transfer of motor learning

  • Lefumat Hannah Z.
  • Vercher Jean-Louis
  • Miall R. Chris
  • Cole Jonathan
  • Buloup Frank
  • Bringoux Lionel
  • Bourdin Christophe
  • Sarlegna Fabrice R.


Humans can remarkably adapt their motor behavior to novel environmental conditions, yet it remains unclear which factors enable us to transfer what we have learned with one limb to the other. Here we tested the hypothesis that interlimb transfer of sensorimotor adaptation is determined by environmental conditions but also by individual characteristics. We specifically examined the adaptation of unconstrained reaching movements to a novel Coriolis, velocity-dependent force field. Right-handed subjects sat at the center of a rotating platform and performed forward reaching movements with the upper limb toward flashed visual targets in prerotation, per-rotation (i.e., adaptation), and post- rotation tests. Here only the dominant arm was used during adaptation and interlimb transfer was assessed by comparing performance of the nondominant arm before and after dominant-arm adaptation. Vision and no-vision conditions did not significantly influence interlimb transfer of trajectory adaptation, which on average was significant but limited. We uncovered a substantial heterogeneity of interlimb transfer across subjects and found that interlimb transfer can be qualitatively and quantitatively predicted for each healthy young individual. A classifier showed that in our study, interlimb transfer could be predicted based on the subject's task performance, most notably motor variability during learning, and his or her laterality quotient. Positive correlations suggested that variability of motor performance and lateralization of arm movement control facilitate interlimb transfer. We further show that these individual characteristics can predict the presence and the magnitude of interlimb transfer of left-handers. Overall, this study suggests that individual characteristics shape the way the nervous system can generalize motor learning.