A movement task was used to investigate the effects of precued variables on reaction time. The task involved rapid rotation of a hand-held manipulandum to target locations and required either pronation or supination of the forearm through short or long extent. The effects on reaction time of precues signalling target direction, extent, or a combination of direction and extent, were measured. The longest reaction times occurred when no information about direction or extent was provided in the precue (all parameters uncertain). Complete prior specification of target position produced the shortest reaction times. Specification of direction when extent was uncertain produced a significantly larger reduction in reaction time than specification of extent when direction was uncertain. Prior specification of extent also produced a small but significant reduction in reaction time relative to the condition in which direction and extent were specified in a mutually conditional manner. The results are discussed in relation to parameter precuing and motor programming, in which the direction is programmed by the pre-selection of neurons representing the muscles to be used in the task while programming of extent is represented by their level of activity during task performance.
J.G. Anson is with the Kinesiology Section, School of Physical Education, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. B.I. Hyland is with the Department of Physiology, University of Otago Medical School. R. Kötter is with the C. & O. Vogt Brain Research Institute, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany. J.R.Wickens is with the Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology, University of Otago Medical School.