Cerebellar anodal tDCS increases implicit learning when strategic re-aiming is suppressed in sensorimotor adaptation
Neurophysiological and neuroimaging work suggests that the cerebellum is critically involved in sensorimotor adaptation. Changes in cerebellar function alter behaviour when compensating for sensorimotor perturbations, as shown by non-invasive stimulation of the cerebellum and studies involving patients with cerebellar degeneration. It is known, however, that behavioural responses to sensorimotor perturbations reflect both explicit processes (such as volitional aiming to one side of a target to counteract a rotation of visual feedback) and implicit, error-driven updating of sensorimotor maps. The contribution of the cerebellum to these explicit and implicit processes remains unclear. Here, we examined the role of the cerebellum in sensorimotor adaptation to a 30° rotation of visual feedback of hand position during target-reaching, when the capacity to use explicit processes was manipulated by controlling movement preparation times. Explicit re-aiming was suppressed in one condition by requiring subjects to initiate their movements within 300ms of target presentation, and permitted in another condition by requiring subjects to wait approximately 1050ms after target presentation before movement initiation. Similar to previous work, applying anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS; 1.5mA) to the right cerebellum during adaptation resulted in faster compensation for errors imposed by the rotation. After exposure to the rotation, we evaluated implicit remapping in no-feedback trials after providing participants with explicit knowledge that the rotation had been removed. Crucially, movements were more adapted in these no-feedback trials following cerebellar anodal tDCS than after sham stimulation in both long and short preparation groups. Thus, cerebellar anodal tDCS increased implicit remapping during sensorimotor adaptation, irrespective of preparation time constraints. The results are consistent with the possibility that the cerebellum contributes to the formation of new visuomotor maps that correct perturbations in sensory feedback, even when explicit processes are suppressed during sensorimotor adaptation.