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- PublicationCharacterization of the Adaptation to Visuomotor Rotations in the Muscle Synergies SpaceThe adaptation to visuomotor rotations is one of the most studied paradigms of motor learning. Previous literature has presented evidence of a dependency between the process of adaptation to visuomotor rotations and the constrains dictated by the workspace of the biological actuators, the muscles, and their co-activation strategies, modeled using muscle synergies analysis. To better understand this relationship, we asked a sample of healthy individuals (N = 7) to perform two experiments aiming at characterizing the adaptation to visuomotor rotations in terms of rotations of the activation space of the muscle synergies during isometric reaching tasks. In both experiments, subjects were asked to adapt to visual rotations altering the position mapping between the force exerted on a fixed manipulandum and the movement of a cursor on a screen. In the first experiment subjects adapted to three different visuomotor rotation angles (30°, 40°, and 50° clockwise) applied to the whole experimental workspace. In the second experiment subjects adapted to a single visuomotor rotation angle (45° clockwise) applied to eight different sub-spaces of the whole workspace, while also performing movements in the rest of the unperturbed workspace. The results from the first experiment confirmed the hypothesis that visuomotor rotations induce rotations in the synergies activation workspace that are proportional to the visuomotor rotation angle. The results from the second experiment showed that rotations affecting limited sub-spaces of the whole workspace are adapted for by rotating only the synergies involved in the movement, with an angle proportional to the distance between the preferred angle of the synergy and the sub-space covered by the rotation. Moreover, we show that the activation of a synergy is only rotated when the sub-space covered by the visual perturbation is applied at the boundaries of the workspace of the synergy. We found these results to be consistent across subjects, synergies and sub-spaces. Moreover, we found a correlation between synergies and muscle rotations further confirming that the adaptation process can be well described, at the neuromuscular level, using the muscle synergies model. These results provide information on how visuomotor rotations can be used to induce a desired neuromuscular response.
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