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Edited by J. Greg Anson

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Steven Morrison and J. Greg Anson

Triphasic electromyographic (EMG) patterns have been described as characteristic of rapid, discrete, uniplanar, goal-directed movements. This experiment examined the effects of Response Type (experimenter- vs. subject-determined), Hand (preferred vs. nonpreferred), and Practice (early vs. late) on performance accuracy, and specific temporal EMG and kinematic measures during a dart throw. EMG was recorded from triceps (main agonist), brachioradialis, and biceps (main antagonist). The number of trials in which a triphasic EMG occurred varied systematically across conditions. The experimenter-determined, early practice condition resulted in greatest frequency (92%) of trials displaying a triphasic EMG and least accurate performance. In contrast, the lowest frequency (79%) of triphasic EMG and most accurate performance occurred in the subject-determined, late practice condition. The association among 14 temporal EMG, and kinematic measures for each trial of the dart throw was analyzed with multivariate factorial ANOVA. Four clusters of variables emerged: initial phase, braking phase, terminal phase, and movement speed and duration. Variables contributing to the initial-phase cluster were most strongly associated within the experimenter-determined, early practice condition, and the strength of association was directly related to diminished performance accuracy. Paradoxically, best performance accuracy (subject-determined, late practice) was identified with a weaker association among variables representing the initial phase.

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Louise Parr-Brownlie, Jeffrey Wickens, J. Greg Anson, and Brian Hyland

In the monkey, reaction time in a precued delayed response task was found to be faster when the animals had to remember the precue than when it was continually available (Smyrnis, Taira, Ashe, & Georgopoulos, 1992). We investigated whether this reflects a general principle that applies to all types of precued tasks. However, we found the opposite result in a simpler task in humans. Our findings suggest that the beneficial effect of a memory requirement on reaction time in the monkey may reflect an effect of task difficulty, rather than a fundamental process involved in all precued movement tasks.

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J. Greg Anson, Brian l. Hyland, Rolf Kötter, and Jeffery R. Wickens

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.

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Amir A. Mohagheghi, J. Greg Anson, Brian I. Hyland, Louise Parr-Brownlie, and Jeffrey R. Wickens

The effect of foreperiod length on reaction time in memorized (MM) and nonmemorized (NM), precued, delayed responses was investigated. Six subjects participated in one long and one short foreperiod schedule testing session. An aiming task, using elbow supination/pronation, in response to a visual stimulus was employed. In the MM condition, target spatial information was available for a fraction of the foreperiod duration. In the NM condition, target information was available continuously until the subject attained the target position. Subjects responded with a significantly longer latency in the long foreperiod schedule. Within each foreperiod schedule, the shortest foreperiod resulted in significantly longer reaction time. However, the absolute value of foreperiod did not have a major effect on reaction time latency. Memorization and nonmemorization conditions did not affect reaction time.