Individual differences in error-related frontal midline theta activity during visuomotor adaptation

Zeb D. Jonker*, Rick van der Vliet, Guido Maquelin, Joris van der Cruijsen, Gerard M. Ribbers, Ruud W. Selles, Opher Donchin, Maarten A. Frens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Post-feedback frontal midline EEG activity has been found to correlate with error magnitude during motor adaptation. However, the role of this neuronal activity remains to be elucidated. It has been hypothesized that post-feedback frontal midline activity may represent a prediction error, which in turn may be directly related to the adaptation process or to an unspecific orienting response. To address these hypotheses, we replicated a previous visuomotor adaptation experiment with very small perturbations, likely to invoke implicit adaptation, in a new group of 60 participants and combined it with EEG recordings. We found error-related peaks in the frontal midline electrodes in the time domain. However, these were best understood as modulations of frontal midline theta activity (FMT, 4–8 Hz). Trial-level differences in FMT correlated with error magnitude. This correlation was robust even for very small errors as well as in the absence of imposed perturbations, indicating that FMT does not depend on explicit or strategic re-aiming. Within participants, trial-level differences in FMT were not related to between-trial error corrections. Between participants, individual differences in FMT-error-sensitivity did not predict differences in adaptation rate. Taken together, these results imply that FMT does not drive implicit motor adaptation. Finally, individual differences in FMT-error-sensitivity negatively correlate to motor execution noise. This suggests that FMT reflects saliency: larger execution noise means a larger standard deviation of errors so that a fixed error magnitude is less salient. In conclusion, this study suggests that frontal midline theta activity represents a saliency signal and does not directly drive motor adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118699
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Nicole Malfait and Dimitrios J. Palidis for constructive feedback on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


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