Fall October 2008
Neural plasticity is a key topic in the study of behavioral neuroscience, yet it can be a difficult concept to demonstrate in a classroom setting. In this report, we describe an interactive technique that can be used to demonstrate and quantify in a laboratory setting the plasticity of motor coordination to altered visual input, i.e. visuo-motor plasticity. Visual input can be easily altered by horizontally-displacing prism goggles. Open-loop motor coordination immediately after putting on these goggles is inaccurate. However, after performing a number of visuo-motor tasks wearing these goggles, coordination adapts and improves. Immediately after removing the goggles, a robust negative aftereffect resulting from adaptation to the goggles is consistently demonstrated. This negative aftereffect can be used to quantify the amount of adaptation that has taken place. We document how to create the prism goggles, how to quantify accuracy of motor coordination, what kinds of visuo-motor tasks consistently lead to significant adaptation, and the importance of active over passive adaptation conditions.