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Papers of the Week

Papers: 2 Apr 2022 - 8 Apr 2022


PLoS One



Participants with mildly-disabling chronic neck pain perform differently during explicit compared to implicit motor learning of a reaching task.


Chronic musculoskeletal (CMSK) pain associated with musculoskeletal disorders like low back pain or neck pain are the leading causes of disability. While CMSK pain has the potential to negatively influence motor learning, there is limited research to understand the impact of CMSK on motor learning. In order to examine differences in motor learning between individuals with and without CMSK we modified a serial reaction time task to assess motor learning of a repetitive reaching task. The paradigm was used to assess both explicit and implicit motor learning. In a cross-sectional study design, seventeen participants with chronic neck pain (CNP) (5 males) and 21 controls (8 males) were recruited. In addition, physical, cognitive, sensorimotor, disability and pain assessments were used to examine differences between individuals with and without CNP. All participants with CNP were categorized as having mild disability. There was no difference in cognitive assessments and minimal differences in physical measures between groups. Examining motor learning, groups with and without CNP demonstrated similar outcomes in both explicit and implicit motor learning. There was one notable performance difference between groups in the reaching task, the group with CNP demonstrated slower reaching movements outward and inward during blocks without explicit information. This may suggest a cautious approach to movement with reduced explicit information. Findings from this study provide insight on motor learning in individuals with mildly-disabling CNP, further research is necessary to examine how instruction can impact peak performance in people with CMSK pain.