Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Integrative Physiology

First Advisor

Alaa A. Ahmed

Second Advisor

Roger M. Enoka

Third Advisor

Rodger Kram


Effective movements largely depend on adaptation, an error-driven process that corrects error from movement to movement. Adaptation is traditionally assumed to depend on the magnitude of movement error. However, not all movement errors of a given magnitude have the same subjective value. Here we examined whether the subjective value of error influenced how participants adapted their control from movement to movement. Seated human participants grasped the handle of a force-generating robotic arm and made horizontal reaching movements in two novel dynamic environments that penalized errors of the same magnitude differently, changing the subjective value of the errors. We expected that adaptation in response to errors of the same magnitude would differ between these environments. In the first environment, Stable, errors were not penalized. In the second environment, Unstable, rightward errors were penalized with the threat of unstable, cliff-like forces. We found that adaptation indeed differed. Specifically, in the Unstable environment, we observed reduced adaptation to leftward errors, an appropriate strategy that reduced the chance of a penalizing rightward error. These results demonstrate that adaptation is influenced by the subjective value of error, rather than solely the magnitude of error, and therefore is risk-sensitive. In other words, we may not simply learn from our mistakes, we may also learn from the value of our mistakes.