Send to

Choose Destination
Exp Brain Res. 2017 Mar;235(3):787-798. doi: 10.1007/s00221-016-4839-6. Epub 2016 Nov 24.

Executive control and working memory are involved in sub-second repetitive motor timing.

Author information

Department of Psychology, Umeå University, 901 87, Umeå, Sweden.
Department of Psychology, Umeå University, 901 87, Umeå, Sweden.
Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden.


The nature of the relationship between timing and cognition remains poorly understood. Cognitive control is known to be involved in discrete timing tasks involving durations above 1 s, but has not yet been demonstrated for repetitive motor timing below 1 s. We examined the latter in two continuation tapping experiments, by varying the cognitive load in a concurrent task. In Experiment 1, participants repeated a fixed three finger sequence (low executive load) or a pseudorandom sequence (high load) with either 524-, 733-, 1024- or 1431-ms inter-onset intervals (IOIs). High load increased timing variability for 524 and 733-ms IOIs but not for the longer IOIs. Experiment 2 attempted to replicate this finding for a concurrent memory task. Participants retained three letters (low working memory load) or seven letters (high load) while producing intervals (524- and 733-ms IOIs) with a drum stick. High load increased timing variability for both IOIs. Taken together, the experiments demonstrate that cognitive control processes influence sub-second repetitive motor timing.


Continuation tapping; Dual task; Executive functions; Isochronous interval production; Random action generation; Timing; Working memory

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center