Passive modeling of movements is often used in movement therapy to overcome disabilities caused by stroke or other disorders (e.g. Developmental Coordination Disorder or Cerebral Palsy). Either a therapist or, recently, a specially designed robot moves or guides the limb passively through the movement to be trained. In contrast, action theory has long suggested that effective skill acquisition requires movements to be actively generated. Is this true? In view of the former, we explicitly tested the latter. Previously, a method was developed that allows children with Developmental Coordination Disorder to produce effective movements actively, so as to improve manual performance to match that of typically developing children. In the current study, we tested practice using such active movements as compared to practice using passive movement. The passive movement employed, namely haptic tracking, provided a strong test of the comparison, one that showed that the mere inaction of the muscles is not the problem. Instead, lack of prospective control was. The result was no effective learning with passive movement while active practice with prospective control yielded significant improvements in performance.
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