Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Paul Gribble


In recent years, there has been a multitude of research on motor learning. However, little research has been done to examine the possibility of altering the rate of learning and performance by modification of the task. In this study, we were interested in investigating the effects of learning a complex task with a gradual increase in difficulty. Subjects performed a mirror drawing task with a robotic manipulandum. Subjects were randomly placed into one of four groups. [Complete] group subjects received the most difficult form of the task from the beginning and trained and tested on the same shape (a 5-pointed star). [Gradual] group subjects gradually progressed through `levels' that increased in difficulty before reaching the [Complete] group star. [Gradual-Rotated] group subjects received a similar paradigm to [Gradual] group subjects, only their training levels were rotated 30 degrees. [Complete-Rotated] group subjects trained on a rotated version of the [Complete] group star. [Complete] group subjects demonstrated significantly better initial performance on the star shape when compared to the [Gradual] and [Gradual-Rotated] groups. [Gradual], [Gradual-Rotated], and [Complete-Rotated] groups initially performed at lower errors on their respective tasks when compared to the [Complete] group. We demonstrate that the novel paradigm that we introduce to subjects successfully lowered initial performance error. However, in this specific task, immediate introduction of the final shape proved to result in better early performance. All subjects performed at equal levels at the end of training. We are interested in the application of this training paradigm to various other tasks.