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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Jul;98(1):317-26. Epub 2007 Apr 25.

Divided attention impairs human motor adaptation but not feedback control.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, MO 63130, USA.

Abstract

When humans experience externally induced errors in a movement, the motor system's feedback control compensates for those errors within the movement. The motor system's predictive control then uses information about those errors to inform future movements. The role of attention in these two distinct motor processes is unclear. Previous experiments have revealed a role for attention in motor learning over the course of many movements; however, these experimental paradigms do not determine how attention influences within-movement feedback control versus across-movement adaptation. Here we develop a dual-task paradigm, consisting of movement and audio tasks, which can differentiate and expose attention's role in these two processes of motor control. Over the course of several days, subjects performed horizontal reaching movements, with and without the audio task; movements were occasionally subjected to transient force perturbations. On movements with a force perturbation, subjects compensated for the force-induced movement errors, and on movements immediately after the force perturbation subjects exhibited adaptation. On every movement trial, subjects performed a two-tone frequency-discrimination task. The temporal specificity of the frequency-discrimination task allowed us to divide attention within and across movements. We find that divided attention did not impair the within-movement feedback control of the arm, but did reduce subsequent movement adaptation. We suggest that the secondary task interfered with the encoding and transformation of errors into changes in predictive control.

PMID:
17460104
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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