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J Neurophysiol. 2013 Apr;109(8):2169-78. doi: 10.1152/jn.00908.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Healthy and dystonic children compensate for changes in motor variability.

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Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, 345 E Superior St., Rm. 1406, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Successful reaching requires that we plan movements to compensate for variability in motor output. Previous studies have shown that healthy adults optimally incorporate estimates of motor variability when planning a pointing task. Children with dystonia have increased variability compared with healthy children. It is not known whether they are able to compensate appropriately for the increased variability and whether this compensation leads to changes in reaching behavior. We examined healthy children and those with increased motor variability due to secondary dystonia. Using a simple virtual display, children performed a motor task where the variability of their movements was manipulated. Results showed that both subject groups changed their movement strategies in response to changes in the level of perceived motor variability. Both groups changed their strategy in a way that improved performance relative to the perceived motor variability. Importantly, dystonic children faced with decreased motor variability adapted their movement strategy to perform better and more similarly to healthy children. These findings show that both healthy and dystonic children are able to respond to changes in motor variability and alter their movement strategies.

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