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Exp Brain Res. 2002 Jun;144(3):303-13. Epub 2002 Mar 19.

Behavioral and electrocortical evidence of an interaction between probability and task metrics in movement preparation.

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  • 1Department of Kinesiology and Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA. kgm8@cornell.edu


Recent neurophysiological evidence suggests that cognitive factors shape neural activity in cortical areas such as parietal (area 5), premotor, and primary motor cortex. The implication of these findings is that behavioral signatures of cognitive factors and movement-specific factors should likewise be interdependent. The present study provides evidence of this interdependence in both behavioral (reaction time) and electrophysiological (P300) measures. Subjects performed a two-choice pointing task, in which the angular distance between the two required movement directions (task metrics) and the probability of the two responses was varied. In a control condition, a single reaction was required in response to both stimuli to test for the influence of stimulus metrics. Results from the pointing task showed a clear interaction between the metrics and effects of probability. When the potential targets were widely separated (120 degrees), stimulus probability influences reaction time and P300 amplitude in the classic fashion (longer reaction times and larger P300 amplitudes to less probable responses). When pointing to targets that were narrowly separated (20 degrees), probability had no effect: both rare and frequent targets were "functionally frequent." The same interaction was not observed in the control condition, indicating that metrics were primarily influencing movement preparation rather than stimulus processing. The results are consistent with the theoretical framework of dynamic field theory and demonstrate that metrics are an important factor that must be taken into account when assessing the processes associated with movement preparation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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