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Gabriele Wulf, Rebecca Lewthwaite and Andrew Hooyman

We examined the interactive influence of normative feedback and conceptions of ability on the learning of a balance task. Ability conceptions were induced by instructions portraying the task as either an acquirable skill or reflecting an inherent ability. Bogus normative feedback about the “average” balance scores of others on a given trial suggested that participants’ performance was either above (Better groups) or below average (Worse groups). Thus, there were four groups: Inherent-Ability Better, Inherent-Ability Worse, Acquirable-Skill Better, and Acquirable-Skill Worse. Following two days of practice, learning was assessed on Day 3 in retention and dual-task transfer tests. The Better groups demonstrated more effective learning than the Worse groups. Questionnaire results revealed differences in self-related concerns between those groups. Signature size changes suggested that participants in the Worse groups perceived negative normative feedback as a threat to the self. The findings highlight the importance of motivational influences on motor learning.

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Andrew Hooyman, Alexander Garbin and Beth Fisher

Recent neuroimaging research has demonstrated that resting-state intracortical connectivity (i.e., the shared communication between two brain regions) can serve as a robust predictor of motor performance and learning. Theoretically, direct modulation of resting-state intracortical connectivity within the motor system could then improve motor performance and learning. However, previous neuromodulation techniques such as repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation may be limited in the capacity to modulate targeted intracortical connectivity. Paired Associative Stimulation (PAS) has shown efficacy in facilitating connectivity primarily between the central and peripheral nervous system based on the neuroplasticity mechanism of Spike Timing Dependent Plasticity. It may therefore be plausible for a reconfigured corticocortical PAS paradigm to modulate resting-state intracortical connectivity using a dual stimulator methodology over specific cortical nodes. However, potential theoretical and technological considerations of such a paradigm first need to be addressed prior to application for the purposes of manipulating motor behavior. We posit a corticocortical PAS paradigm used in conjunction with resting-state electroencephalography to demonstrate efficacy of potentiating motor learning associated resting-state intracortical connectivity within the human brain. Here we provide a precise PAS/EEG experimental design, details on data analysis, recommendations for maintaining scientific rigor, and preliminary proof of principle within a single-subject.