Motor Learning in Children: Feedback Effects on Skill Acquisition

The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of different relative frequencies of feedback on skill acquisition in children compared with young adults. 20 young adults and 20 children practiced 200 trials of a discrete arm movement with specific spatiotemporal parameters. Participants from each group (adults and children) were randomly assigned to either a feedback group or a reduced feedback group. Learning was inferred from the performance on the delayed (24-hour) retention and reacquisition tests.  All participants improved accuracy and consistency across practice trials. During practice, the adults performed with significantly less error than the children. Adults who practiced with reduced feedback performed with increased consistency during the retention test compared with those who practiced with 100% feedback. In contrast, children who received reduced feedback during practice performed with less accuracy and consistency during the retention test than those who received 100% feedback. However, when feedback was reintroduced during the reacquisition test, the children in the reduced feedback group were able to improve their performance comparable to those in the 100% feedback group.  

During motor learning, children use feedback in a manner different from that of adults. To optimize motor learning, children may require longer periods of practice, with feedback reduced more gradually, compared with young adults.

Physical Therapy, 13 March 2008. online article ahead of press

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