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Response Time Modulates the Relationship Between Implicit Learning and Motor Ability in Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Preliminary Study

Jin Bo, Bo Shen, Liangsan Dong, YanLi Pang, Yu Xing, Mingting Zhang, Yuan Xiang, Patricia C. Lasutschinkow, and Dan Li

Difficulty with implicit learning plays an important role in the symptomology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, findings in motor learning are inconsistent. This study evaluated implicit sequence learning and its relationship with motor ability in children with and without ASD. We adopted a classic serial reaction time task with a retention task and three awareness tests. The Movement Assessment Battery for Children was administered to assess children’s motor ability. Significant learning differences between children with and without ASD were only found in retention but not immediately after the serial reaction time task. These findings suggest that the impaired implicit learning in ASD is characterized as impaired consolidation where the relatively permanent changes are missing. Exploratory moderation analyses revealed a significant relationship between implicit learning and motor ability for individuals with faster response time. We argue the importance of response speed for optimal learning and should be weighted more for future intervention in children with ASD.

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Cognitive-Motor Interference and Cortical Activation While Walking in Individuals With Multiple Sclerosis

Michael VanNostrand, Brittany Belanger, Gabriel Purin, Susan L. Kasser, and Michael Cannizzaro

The present study expands on current understanding of dual-task cognitive-motor interference, by including cortical activation measures to both traditional and ecologically valid dual-task paradigms. Fifteen individuals with multiple sclerosis and 14 control participants underwent mobility testing while wearing functional near-infrared spectroscopy. In the absence of increased prefrontal cortical activation, subjects with multiple sclerosis performed significantly worse on measures of cognition under both single- and dual-task conditions. These findings suggest that persons with multiple sclerosis may be unable to allocate additional cortical resources to cognition under dual-task conditions, leading to significant cognitive-motor interference and decrements in performance. This study is the first to investigate cortical activation across several commonly used and ecologically valid dual-task assessments.

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Do Cognitive, Physical, and Combined Tasks Induce Similar Levels of Mental Fatigue? Testing the Effects of Different Moderating Variables

Ana Rubio-Morales, Jesús Díaz-García, Carlos Barbosa, Jelle Habay, Miguel Ángel López-Gajardo, and Tomás García-Calvo

Experts have highlighted the importance of coaches knowing the level of mental fatigue (MF) induced by different tasks. This study aimed to compare the mentally fatiguing nature of cognitive, physical, and combined tasks and, additionally, assess the effect of different moderating variables on MF. Twenty-three physically active (16 males: M age = 24 years; seven females: M age = 22.57 years) participants performed three experimental sessions: (a) physically fatiguing: 30 min of cycloergometer work (at 65%–75% of maximum heart rate), (b) mentally fatiguing: 30 min of an incongruent Stroop task, and (c) mixed fatiguing: 30 min of combining the physically and mentally fatiguing protocols. Subjective MF (visual analog scale), reaction time (psychomotor vigilance task), and cognitive performance (Stroop) were measured throughout the different protocols. Results showed significant increments in subjective MF after all tasks, with the mental and mixed protocols showing significantly higher increases. Only the mentally fatiguing protocol caused significant impairments in reaction time. No significant effects of sex, years of experience, or degree of mental toughness were observed. These results suggest that the use of all these tasks, and especially the mentally fatiguing exercises, should be avoided immediately prior to competitions due to the negative consequences of MF on performance. Moreover, this effect seems to be independent of the sex, years of experience, or mental toughness of athletes.

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Interfinger Synchronization Capability of Paired Fingers in Discrete Fine-Force Control Tasks

Cong Peng, Na Yao, Xin Wang, and Dangxiao Wang

This study examined whether within-a-hand and between-hands finger pairings would exhibit different interfinger synchronization capabilities in discrete fine-force control tasks. Participants were required to perform the designed force control tasks using finger pairings of index and middle fingers on one or two hands. Results demonstrated that the delayed reaction time and the timing difference of paired fingers showed a significant difference among finger pairings. In particular, paired fingers exhibited less delayed reaction time and timing difference in between-hands finger pairings than in within-a-hand finger pairings. Such bimanual advantage of the pairings with two symmetric fingers was evident only in the task types with relatively high amplitudes. However, for a given finger pairing, the asymmetric amplitude configuration, assigning a relatively higher amplitude to either left or right finger of paired fingers, has no significant effect on the interfinger synchronization. Therefore, paired fingers on both hands showed a bimanual advantage in the relatively high force, especially for the pairing of symmetrical fingers, whereas asymmetric amplitude configuration for a finger pairing was able to suppress the bimanual advantage. These findings would enrich the understanding of the interfinger synchronization capability of paired fingers and be referential for interactive engineering applications when leveraging the interfinger synchronization capability in discrete fine-force control tasks.

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Validation of Dance-Specific Balance Test: Evidence From Comparisons Between Dancers and Nondancers

Muhammad Ridhuan Johari, Ying Hwa Kee, and Pui Wah Kong

The aim of this study was to establish the utility of the dance-specific balance test in examining the stability in postural control for dancers. Specifically, the method involves using the time taken to stabilize upon perturbation to quantify postural stability. The dance-specific balance test involved performing a four-step dance-like routine followed by a forward hop onto the force plate with one’s dominant leg, ending with an attempt to sustain balance for a 30-s period. Results from the dance-specific balance test indicated that dancers stabilize faster (0.45 ± 0.11 s) than nondancers (1.09 ± 0.59 s); t(35.39) = −6.16, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 1.46. Dancers are found to be faster to adapt after a perturbation than nondancers, and this suggests the usability of this tool for assessing stability in dancers.

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Does 8 Weeks of Integrated Functional Core and Plyometric Training Improve Postural Control Performance in Young Rhythmic Gymnasts?

Cristina Cabrejas, Jose Morales, Mónica Solana-Tramunt, Ainhoa Nieto-Guisado, Alesander Badiola-Zabala, and Josep Campos-Rius

It has been suggested that core stability and plyometric training (CPT) can enhance athletes’ postural control. Nevertheless, the effects of an integrated core and plyometric training program on rhythmic gymnastics (RG) performance are unclear. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of an integrated functional CPT program on young rhythmics gymnasts’ postural performance. A sample of 44 young female rhythmic gymnasts from a competitive team (age = 10.5 ± 1.8 years) participated in the study. The subjects were randomly divided into a control group and an experimental group. Pre- and posttest design was used. Postural control was assessed using single-leg stance tests and RG-specific balances over a force platform and evaluated by expert RG judges. The experimental group (n = 23) completed an 8-week functional CPT program based on RG technical requirements. Meanwhile, the control group (n = 21) received their usual training sessions. A mixed model of analysis of variance was applied to evaluate the effects of an intrasubject factor and an intersubject factor on each of the dependent variables. After 8 weeks, the experimental group obtained significant better results in some variables of the right support leg with eyes open and left support leg with eyes open single-leg support (p < .01), improvements were also found in some specific RG balances: Arabesque measured on the force platform (p < .01) and the side leg with help balance scored by the judges (p < .01). In conclusion, an integrated functional CPT program improved postural control in young rhythmic gymnasts. Coaches should consider using this CPT to improve RG performance.

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A Dynamical Approach to the Uncontrolled Manifold: Predicting Performance Error During Steady-State Isometric Force Production

Francis M. Grover, Valéria Andrade, Nicole S. Carver, Scott Bonnette, Michael A. Riley, and Paula L. Silva

The uncontrolled manifold (UCM) approach quantifies the presence of compensatory variability between musculoskeletal elements involved in a motor task. This approach has proved useful for identifying synergistic control strategies for a variety of everyday motor tasks and for investigating how control strategies are affected by motor pathology. However, the UCM approach is limited in its ability to relate compensatory motor variance directly to task performance because variability along the UCM is mathematically agnostic to performance. We present a new approach to UCM analysis that quantifies patterns of irregularity in the compensatory variability between motor elements over time. In a bimanual isometric force stabilization task, irregular patterns of compensation between index fingers predicted greater performance error associated with difficult task conditions, in particular for individuals who exploited a larger set of compensatory strategies (i.e., a larger subspace of the UCM). This relationship between the amount and structure of compensatory motor variance might be an expression of underlying processes supporting performance resilience.

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Effects of Warm-Up Training on Psychomotor Vigilance and Repeated-Sprint Ability of Professional Soccer Referees: A Pilot Study

Mateu Busquets-Ferrer, Francisco Tomás González-Fernández, Filipe Manuel Clemente, and Alfonso Castillo-Rodriguez

For this research, we analyzed the immediate effects of warm-up condition (WC) or without warm-up condition (WWC) on amateur referees’ physical and cognitive functioning. Eight professional soccer referees from the Balearic Committee of Football Referees were the participants of this study. Body composition characteristics were measured and the scores on three tests were recorded: the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery, repeated-sprint ability, and psychomotor vigilance task. Regarding results, the psychomotor vigilance task was performed better after warm-up training (p = .002, η2 = .79) with faster reaction times following WC (M = 318.2, SD = 27.1 ms) than WWC (M = 334.9, SD = 26.1). Similarly, the referees’ performance was better on the repeated-sprint ability test after WC (p = .002, d = 0.53) than WWC, with minimum and average power values higher after WC (M = 626.77, SD = 112.57) than WWC (M = 562.35, SD = 79.63). We conclude that re-warm-up training may mitigate the vigilance performance changes caused by effects of rest on soccer referees.

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Postural Sway and Muscle Activity Dynamics of Upright Standing on Sloped Surfaces

Jacey Baldridge and Adam C. King

During upright standing, individuals often use co-contraction muscle activity at the ankle joint when encountering increased postural difficulty; however, this strategy has been shown to be maladaptive. The purpose of the current investigation was to examine the effect of sloped standing on postural sway and muscle co-contraction at the ankle joint as a function of postural difficulty. Twelve young (21.67 ± 1.11 years) adults performed upright standing on flat, declined, and inclined support surfaces. Center of pressure displacements indexed postural sway while electromyography data were collected for the tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius medialis muscles. A co-contraction index and a nonlinear coupling metric (cross-approximate entropy) were computed between ankle dorsiflexor and plantar flexor muscles (tibialis anterior/gastrocnemius medialis) activity. The results showed that higher degrees of postural difficulty led to increased amounts of sway as well as increased sway regularity. Lower co-contraction index was observed for higher degrees of postural difficulty; however, increased dynamic coupling occurred with deviations from the flat standing condition. Overall, increased postural difficulty as manipulated by sloped standing (in either inclined or declined conditions) resulted in individuals adopting a more regular sway trajectory that may be due, in part, to a stronger dynamic coupling strategy occurring at the neuromuscular level.

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Using Monte Carlo Simulation to Propagate Processing Parameter Uncertainty to the Statistical Analyses of Biomechanical Trajectories

Todd C. Pataky

Biomechanical trajectories are often routed through a chain of processing steps prior to statistical analysis. As changes in processing parameter values can affect these trajectories, care is required when choosing data processing specifics. The purpose of this Research Note was to demonstrate a simple way to propagate data processing parameter uncertainty to statistical inferences regarding biomechanical trajectories. As an example application, the correlation between foot contact duration and vertical ground reaction force during constant-speed treadmill walking was considered. Uncertainty was modeled using plausible-range uniform distributions in three data processing steps, and Monte Carlo simulation was used to construct probabilistic representations of both individual vertical ground reaction force measurements and the ultimate statistical results. Whereas an initial, plausible set of parameter values yielded a significant correlation between contact duration and late-stance vertical ground reaction force, Monte Carlo simulations revealed strong sensitivity, with “significance” being reached in fewer than 40% of simulations, with relatively little net effect of parameter uncertainty magnitude. These results indicate that propagating processing parameter uncertainty to statistical results promotes a cautious, nuanced, and robust view of observed effects. By extension, Monte Carlo simulations may yield greater interpretive consistency across studies involving data processing uncertainties.