Brazilian Journal of Motor Behavior
Special issue:
The role of practice in motor learning
Lee, Krishnan
112 of 133
Ten guidelines for designing motor learning studies
Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI, USA.
Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI, USA.
Correspondence to: Rajiv Ranganathan.
Associate Professor
Department of Kinesiology
Department of Mechanical Engineering
308 W Circle Dr Rm 126
East Lansing, MI USA 48824
Received 24 12 2021
Accepted 13 03 2022
Published 01 06 2022
Motor learning is a central focus of several disciplines including kinesiology, neuroscience and rehabilitation.
However, given the different traditions of these fields, this interdisciplinarity can be a challenge when trying to
interpret evidence and claims from motor learning experiments. To address this issue, we offer a set of ten
guidelines for designing motor learning experiments starting from task selection to data analysis, primarily from
the viewpoint of running lab-based experiments. The guidelines are not intended to serve as rigid rules, but
instead to raise awareness about key issues in motor learning. We believe that addressing these issues can
increase the robustness of work in the field and its relevance to the real-world.
KEYWORDS: Motor learning | Skill | Experiments | Task | Analysis | Practice
Motor learning is a central focus of several disciplines including psychology,
kinesiology, neurophysiology, neuroscience, rehabilitation, and engineering. While this
diversity of perspectives is a positive feature in terms of the development of new ideas and
theories, it also brings associated challenges in terms of interpreting evidence and claims
about motor learning. In our experience leading journal clubs, it is not uncommon to
discuss a paper with a claim about “motor learning” in the title and end up questioning if
the paper was really even about motor learning! A large part of this challenge is due to the
fact that theoretical, conceptual, and methodological issues related to the design of motor
learning experiments that are ‘common knowledge’ to researchers in one particular
discipline may not always be accessible to researchers from other disciplines.
To address this issue, we provide a set of ten guidelines to raise awareness about
these issues and navigate the design and analysis of motor learning experiments (Table
1). For each of these decision steps, we discuss common pitfalls and suggest
recommendations, citing examples from both classic and recent studies of motor learning.
Although several of these factors have been emphasized in prior work
, the goal of this
article is to synthesize this tacit knowledge to provide a step-by-step guide through the
entire process from task selection to data analysis and interpretation. The paper is
primarily intended for early-career researchers who are new to the field, but we hope that
the issues raised can also serve as a starting point for discussions during interdisciplinary