Sensorimotor adaptation to destabilizing dynamics in weakly electric fish

Yu Yang, Dominic G. Yared, Eric S. Fortune, Noah J. Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans and other animals can readily learn to compensate for changes in the dynamics of movement. Such changes can result from an injury or changes in the weight of carried objects. These changes in dynamics can lead not only to reduced performance but also to dramatic instabilities. We evaluated the impacts of compensatory changes in control policies in relation to stability and robustness in Eigenmannia virescens, a species of weakly electric fish. We discovered that these fish retune their sensorimotor control system in response to experimentally generated destabilizing dynamics. Specifically, we used an augmented reality system to manipulate sensory feedback during an image stabilization task in which a fish maintained its position within a refuge. The augmented reality system measured the fish's movements in real time. These movements were passed through a high-pass filter and multiplied by a gain factor before being fed back to the refuge motion. We adjusted the gain factor to gradually destabilize the fish's sensorimotor loop. The fish retuned their sensorimotor control system to compensate for the experimentally induced destabilizing dynamics. This retuning was partially maintained when the augmented reality feedback was abruptly removed. The compensatory changes in sensorimotor control improved tracking performance as well as control-theoretic measures of robustness, including reduced sensitivity to disturbances and improved phase margins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2118-2131.e5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 20 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • control theory
  • motor learning
  • sensorimotor adaptation

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