Locomotor adaptation is modulated by observing the actions of others

Patel, M., Roberts, R.E, Risyaz, M.U., Buckwell, D., Bunday, K.L., Ahmad, H., Kaski, D., Arshad, Q. and Bronstein, A.M. 2015. Locomotor adaptation is modulated by observing the actions of others. Journal of Neurophysiology. 114 (3), pp. 1538-1544. https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.00446.2015

TitleLocomotor adaptation is modulated by observing the actions of others
TypeJournal article
AuthorsPatel, M., Roberts, R.E, Risyaz, M.U., Buckwell, D., Bunday, K.L., Ahmad, H., Kaski, D., Arshad, Q. and Bronstein, A.M.
Abstract

Observing the motor actions of another person could facilitate compensatory motor behavior in the passive observer. Here we explored whether action observation alone can induce automatic locomotor adaptation in humans. To explore this possibility, we used the "broken escalator" paradigm. Conventionally this involves stepping upon a stationary sled after having previously experienced it actually moving (Moving trials). This history of motion produces a locomotor aftereffect when subsequently stepping onto a stationary sled. We found that viewing an actor perform the Moving trials was sufficient to generate a locomotor aftereffect in the observer, the size of which was significantly correlated with the size of the movement (postural sway) observed. Crucially, the effect is specific to watching the task being performed, as no motor adaptation occurs after simply viewing the sled move in isolation. These findings demonstrate that locomotor adaptation in humans can be driven purely by action observation, with the brain adapting motor plans in response to the size of the observed individual's motion. This mechanism may be mediated by a mirror neuron system that automatically adapts behavior to minimize movement errors and improve motor skills through social cues, although further neurophysiological studies are required to support this theory. These data suggest that merely observing the gait of another person in a challenging environment is sufficient to generate appropriate postural countermeasures, implying the existence of an automatic mechanism for adapting locomotor behavior.

Keywordsaction observation
adaptation
learning
locomotion
mirror neurons
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Journal citation114 (3), pp. 1538-1544
ISSN0022-3077
Year2015
PublisherAmerican Physiological Society
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.00446.2015
PubMed ID26156386
Publication dates
Published08 Jul 2015
FunderMRC (Medical Research Council)
NIHR (National Institute for Health Research)

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