Rewarding imperfect motor performance reduces adaptive changes

K. van der Kooij*, K. E. Overvliet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Could a pat on the back affect motor adaptation? Recent studies indeed suggest that rewards can boost motor adaptation. However, the rewards used were typically reward gradients that carried quite detailed information about performance. We investigated whether simple binary rewards affected how participants learned to correct for a visual rotation of performance feedback in a 3D pointing task. To do so, we asked participants to align their unseen hand with virtual target cubes in alternating blocks with and without spatial performance feedback. Forty participants were assigned to one of two groups: a ‘spatial only’ group, in which the feedback consisted of showing the (perturbed) endpoint of the hand, or to a ‘spatial & reward’ group, in which a reward could be received in addition to the spatial feedback. In addition, six participants were tested in a ‘reward only’ group. Binary reward was given when the participants’ hand landed in a virtual ‘hit area’ that was adapted to individual performance to reward about half the trials. The results show a typical pattern of adaptation in both the ‘spatial only’ and the ‘spatial & reward’ groups, whereas the ‘reward only’ group was unable to adapt. The rewards did not affect the overall pattern of adaptation in the ‘spatial & reward’ group. However, on a trial-by-trial basis, the rewards reduced adaptive changes to spatial errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1450
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Visuomotor adaptation
  • Motor adaptation
  • Error-based learning
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Reward


Dive into the research topics of 'Rewarding imperfect motor performance reduces adaptive changes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this