An experiment was conducted to examine contextual effects of the magnitude of changes in force on force control in a finger-tapping sequence with an accentuated- (accentuated-force condition) or attenuated-force tap (attenuated-force condition). Participants were trained to produce a finger-tapping sequence with an intertap interval of 500 ms and four force patterns. During practice, visual force feedback pertaining to the two target forces in the tapping sequences was provided. After practice, the participants reproduced the learned tapping sequences in the absence of feedback. A main result was that the last accentuated-force tap affected the first three taps of the tapping sequence. For the accentuated-force conditions, the larger the difference between the first three target forces and the last target force, the larger the first three forces. This indicates the contextual effect of serial position for force control. This effect was not observed, however, under the attenuated-force conditions.
An experiment was conducted to examine the coupling of force variability in bimanual finger tapping sequences with asymmetrical forces. Right-handed participants were trained to produce bimanual finger tapping sequences consisted of an intertap interval of 500 ms and eight force conditions: two alternating force left high, two alternating force right high, two simultaneous force left high, and two simultaneous force right high conditions. During practice, visual force feedback was provided for both hands performing the bimanual tapping sequences. After practice, the participants produced the learned tapping sequences in the absence of feedback. Most importantly, whereas the peak force variability of the nondominant left hand was larger than that of the dominant right hand under the right high conditions, there was no left–right difference under the simultaneous left high conditions. This suggests that under the simultaneous left high conditions, both hemispheres were activated, resulting in overflow in the right hand, and bringing the two force variabilities closer together.
Nobuyuki Inui and Yumi Katsura
We conducted an experiment to examine age-related differences in the control of force and timing in a finger-tapping sequence with an attenuated-force tap. Participants between 7 and 20 years old tapped on a load cell with feedback on practice trials. They were required to recall the force pattern (300 g, 300 g, 300 g, 100 g) and the intertap interval (400 ms) without feedback on test trials. Analysis indicated that the last attenuated tap affected the first three taps of the tapping sequence in adults and adolescents but not in children. Adults and adolescents appeared to respond with four taps as a chunk, resulting in a contextual effect on the timing of force control, but younger children had difficulty with such chunking. Further, adults and adolescents were able to more accurately produce individual force magnitudes to match target magnitudes than younger children. For the ratio of force in serial positions 1:4, 2:4, and 3:4, consequently, 7- to 8-year-old children had lower ratios than the other age groups. Although there was no difference among age groups for timing control of peak force to press duration as a control strategy of force, 7- to 8-year-old children spent more time to produce force than the other age groups. Peak force with a decreased force was more variable in the attenuated force serial position (4) than in the other serial positions in all five age groups. Peak force variability was particularly robust in younger children. These findings suggest that younger children have difficulty with both temporal and spatial (i.e., magnitude) components of force control.
Nobuyuki Inui and Takuya Ichihara
To examine the relation between timing and force control during finger tapping sequences by both pianists and nonpianists, participants lapped a force plate connected to strain gauges. A series of finger tapping tasks consisted of 16 combinations of pace (intertap interval: 180. 200, 400. or 800 ms) and peak force (50, 100. 200. or 400 g). Analysis showed that, although movement timing was independent of force control under low or medium pace conditions, there were strong interactions between the 2 parameters under high pace conditions. The results indicate that participants adapted the movement by switching from separately controlling these parameters in the slow and moderate movement to coupling them in the fast movement. While variations in intertap interval affected force production by nonpianists. they had little effect for pianists. The ratios of time-to-peak force to press duration increased linearly in pianists but varied irregularly in nonpianists, as the required force decreased. Thus, pianists regulate peak force by timing control of peak force to press duration, suggesting that training affects the relationship between the 2 parameters.
Hirokazu Sasaki, Junya Masumoto, and Nobuyuki Inui
The present study examined whether the elderly produced a hastened or delayed tap with a negative or positive constant intertap interval error more frequently in self-paced tapping than in the stimulus-synchronized tapping for the 2 N target force at 2 or 4 Hz frequency. The analysis showed that, at both frequencies, the percentage of the delayed tap was larger in the self-paced tapping than in the stimulus-synchronized tapping, whereas the hastened tap showed the opposite result. At the 4 Hz frequency, all age groups had more variable intertap intervals during the self-paced tapping than during the stimulus-synchronized tapping, and the variability of the intertap intervals increased with age. Thus, although the increase in the frequency of delayed taps and variable intertap intervals in the self-paced tapping perhaps resulted from a dysfunction of movement timing in the basal ganglia with age, the decline in timing accuracy was somewhat improved by an auditory cue. The force variability of tapping at 4 Hz further increased with age, indicating an effect of aging on the control of force.