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Exp Brain Res. 2012 Apr;218(2):169-79. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3004-0.

Motor imagery of tool use: relationship to actual use and adherence to Fitts’ law across tasks.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, 1227 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-5288, USA. macuga@uoregon.edu


A Fitts’ task was used to investigate how tools are incorporated into the internal representations that underlie pointing movements, and whether such knowledge can be generalized across tasks. We measured the speed-accuracy trade-offs that occurred as target width was varied for both real and imagined movements. The dynamics of the pointing tool used in the task were manipulated--regular pen, top-heavy tool, and bottom-heavy tool--to test the fidelity of internal representations of movements involving the use of novel tools. To test if such representations can be generalized, the orientation of the pointing task was also manipulated (horizontal vs. vertical). In all conditions, both real and imagined performances conformed to the speed-accuracy relationship described by Fitts’ law. We found significant differences in imagined MTs for the two weighted tools compared to the regular pen, but not between the weighted tools. By contrast, real movement durations differed between all tools. These results indicate that even relatively brief experience using novel tools is sufficient to influence the internal representation of the dynamics of the tool-limb system. However, in the absence of feedback, these representations do not make explicit differences in performances resulting from the unique dynamics of these weighted tools.

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