Adaptive dynamic programming as a theory of sensorimotor control

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Many characteristics of sensorimotor control can be explained by models based on optimization and optimal control theories. However, most of the previous models assume that the central nervous system has access to the precise knowledge of the sensorimotor system and its interacting environment. This viewpoint is difficult to be justified theoretically and has not been convincingly validated by experiments. To address this problem, this paper presents a new computational mechanism for sensorimotor control from a perspective of adaptive dynamic programming (ADP), which shares some features of reinforcement learning. The ADP-based model for sensorimotor control suggests that a command signal for the human movement is derived directly from the real-time sensory data, without the need to identify the system dynamics. An iterative learning scheme based on the proposed ADP theory is developed, along with rigorous convergence analysis. Interestingly, the computational model as advocated here is able to reproduce the motor learning behavior observed in experiments where a divergent force field or velocity-dependent force field was present. In addition, this modeling strategy provides a clear way to perform stability analysis of the overall system. Hence, we conjecture that human sensorimotor systems use an ADP-type mechanism to control movements and to achieve successful adaptation to uncertainties present in the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-473
Number of pages15
JournalBiological cybernetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Adaptive dynamic programming
  • Endpoint stiffness
  • Motor learning
  • Optimal control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • General Computer Science


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