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  1. Motor learning in visuomotor adaptation tasks results from both explicit and implicit processes, each responding differently to an error signal. Although the motor output side of these processes has been extensively studied, the visual input side is relatively unknown. We investigated if and how depth perception affects the computation of error information by explicit and implicit motor learning. Two groups of participants made reaching movements to bring a virtual cursor to a target in the frontoparallel plane. The Delayed group was allowed to reaim and their feedback was delayed to emphasize explicit learning, whereas the camped group received task-irrelevant clamped cursor feedback and continued to aim straight at the target to emphasize implicit adaptation. Both groups played this game in a highly detailed virtual environment (depth condition), leveraging a cover task of playing darts in a virtual tavern, and in an empty environment (no-depth condition). The delayed group showed an increase in error sensitivity under depth relative to no-depth. In contrast, the clamped group adapted to the same degree under both conditions. The movement kinematics of the delayed participants also changed under the depth condition, consistent with the target appearing more distant, unlike the Clamped group. A comparison of the delayed behavioral data with a perceptual task from the same individuals showed that the greater reaiming in the depth condition was consistent with an increase in the scaling of the error distance and size. These findings suggest that explicit and implicit learning processes may rely on different sources of perceptual information. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We leveraged a classic sensorimotor adaptation task to perform a first systematic assessment of the role of perceptual cues in the estimation of an error signal in the 3-D space during motor learning. We crossed two conditions presenting different amounts of depth information, with two manipulations emphasizing explicit and implicit learning processes. Explicit learning responded to the visual conditions, consistent with perceptual reports, whereas implicit learning appeared to be independent of them. 
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  3. Visually guided movements can show surprising accuracy even when the perceived three-dimensional (3D) shape of the target is distorted. One explanation of this paradox is that an evolutionarily specialized “vision-for-action” system provides accurate shape estimates by relying selectively on stereo information and ignoring less reliable sources of shape information like texture and shading. However, the key support for this hypothesis has come from studies that analyze average behavior across many visuomotor interactions where available sensory feedback reinforces stereo information. The present study, which carefully accounts for the effects of feedback, shows that visuomotor interactions with slanted surfaces are actually planned using the same cue-combination function as slant perception and that apparent dissociations can arise due to two distinct supervised learning processes: sensorimotor adaptation and cue reweighting. In two experiments, we show that when a distorted slant cue biases perception (e.g., surfaces appear flattened by a fixed amount), sensorimotor adaptation rapidly adjusts the planned grip orientation to compensate for this constant error. However, when the distorted slant cue is unreliable, leading to variable errors across a set of objects (i.e., some slants are overestimated, others underestimated), then relative cue weights are gradually adjusted to reduce the misleading effect of the unreliable cue, consistent with previous perceptual studies of cue reweighting. The speed and flexibility of these two forms of learning provide an alternative explanation of why perception and action are sometimes found to be dissociated in experiments where some 3D shape cues are consistent with sensory feedback while others are faulty. NEW & NOTEWORTHY When interacting with three-dimensional (3D) objects, sensory feedback is available that could improve future performance via supervised learning. Here we confirm that natural visuomotor interactions lead to sensorimotor adaptation and cue reweighting, two distinct learning processes uniquely suited to resolve errors caused by biased and noisy 3D shape cues. These findings explain why perception and action are often found to be dissociated in experiments where some cues are consistent with sensory feedback while others are faulty. 
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