Abstract: Haptic stimulation can help humans learn perceptual motor skills, but the precise way in which it influences the learning process has not yet been clarified. This study investigates the role of the kinesthetic and cutaneous components of haptic feedback during the learning of a viscous curl field, taking also into account the influence of visual feedback. We present the results of an experiment in which 17 subjects were asked to make reaching movements while grasping a joystick and wearing a
pair of cutaneous devices. Each device was able to provide cutaneous contact forces through a moving platform. The subjects received visual feedback about joystick’s position. During the experiment, the system delivered a perturbation through (1) full haptic stimulation, (2) kinesthetic stimulation alone, (3) cutaneous stimulation alone, (4) altered visual feedback or (5) altered visual feedback plus cutaneous stimulation. Conditions 1, 2 and 3 were also tested with the cancellation of the visual feedback of position error. Results indicate that kinesthetic stimuli played a primary role during motor adaptation to the viscous field, which is a fundamental premise to motor learning and rehabilitation. On the other hand, cutaneous stimulation alone appeared not to bring significant direct or adaptation effects, although it helped in reducing direct effects when used in addition to kinesthetic
stimulation. The experimental conditions with visual cancellation of position error showed slower adaptation rates, indicating that
visual feedback actively contributes to the formation of internal models. However, modest learning effects were detected when the visual information was used to render the viscous field.