Transfer of dynamic motor skills acquired during isometric training to free motion

Recent studies have explored the prospects of learning to move without moving, by displaying virtual arm movement related to exerted force. However, it has yet to be tested whether learning the dynamics of moving can transfer to the corresponding movement. Here we present a series of experiments that investigate this isometric training paradigm. Subjects were asked to hold a handle and generate forces as their arms were constrained to a static position. A precise simulation of reaching was used to make a graphic rendering of an arm moving realistically in response to the measured interaction forces and simulated environmental forces. Such graphic rendering was displayed on a horizontal display that blocked their view to their actual (statically constrained) arm and encouraged them to believe they were moving. We studied adaptation of horizontal, planar, goal-directed arm movements in a velocity-dependent force field. Our results show that individuals can learn to compensate for such a force field in a virtual environment and transfer their new skills to the actual free motion condition, with performance comparable to practice while moving. Such nonmoving techniques should impact various training conditions when moving may not be possible.