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Virtual tether ball shows reducing neural ‘noise’ could help fine-tune motor skills – ScienceDaily

Exaggerating the visual appearance of errors could help people further improve their motor skills after an initial peak in performance, according to a new study published in Computational Biology PLOS.

Previous research has shown that manipulating the perception of errors can improve motor skills. Dagmar Sternad, Christopher Hasson and their colleagues at Northeastern University in Boston and Hokkaido University in Japan set out to determine whether this strategy could further improve skills after their plateau.

In the study, 42 healthy participants learned a virtual tether-like game in which they tried to hit a target with a ball suspended from a post. After three days, all players have reached a performance plateau. Then, for some players, the researchers secretly manipulated the game so that the distance the bullet missed the target appeared larger on the screen than it actually was.

Participants whose mistakes seemed at least twice as bad as they actually were passed their plateau and continued to hone their tetherball skills. A control group that was not fooled showed negligible improvement.

By analyzing player actions using computer learning models, the researchers found that exaggerating errors did not change the way they correct their throwing techniques. Instead, it reduced the random fluctuations, or noise, in nervous system signals that control muscle movement. These results challenge existing assumptions that such noise cannot be reduced.

The authors point out that their findings may help improve strategies to help people who have reached a plateau in motor skills, including elite athletes, healthy seniors, stroke patients, and children with stroke. of dystonia. Future research may reveal the physiological mechanisms underlying the findings.

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