Physical Activity, Exercise Physiology, Movement
Changes in performance kinematics and cognitive workload during the learning of a novel reaching task over multiple training sessions
(UMD SPH Kinesiology Undergraduate Student )
Objectives: Although a large body of work have studied motor learning; only a few of them have examined the effects of multiple training sessions. Specifically, the rare previous studies that investigated learning via multiple days or weeks of practice did not examine the concomitant changes in motor performance, cognitive workload and self-efficacy. Therefore, this work aims to examine the changes in motor performance, cognitive workload, and self-efficacy during practice of an unfamiliar reaching task over several training session. Approach: Participants were trained during eight sessions to learn the control of a virtual robotic arm by employing limited head movements to reach as fast and straight as possible spatially distributed targets in a 2D-workspace. The robotic arm moved in eight directions (four cardinal directions and the diagonal) and was controlled by head motion via a human-machine interface in a similar manner than a usual joystick. The motor performance was assessed by analyzing the kinematics of the robotic device, while cognitive workload and self-efficacy were assessed with questionnaires. Findings: First, the changes in motor performance and cognitive workload were analyzed. The findings revealed that the kinematic performance was improved and the cognitive workload was reduced as the participants practiced through the eight training sessions. Conclusions: These findings suggest that as the participants become more familiar with the task, the control of the robotic arm is progressively automatized, which result in a reduction of the cognitive workload, likely reflecting a decrease in the recruitment of the attentional resources. Public Health Significance: This effort can inform the cognitive-motor mechanisms engaged during motor learning as well as the training and development of assistive technology and prostheses.