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James Lyons, Digby Elliott, Laurie R. Swanson and Romeo Chua

This study was designed to examine the influence of age and the availability of vision on the performance and kinematic characteristics of discrete aiming movements. Twelve young adults (19–25 years old) and 12 healthy older adults (62–82 years old) performed 130-mm aiming movements to targets with diameters of 5, 10, and 20 mm. On half the trial blocks, visual feedback about the aiming movement was eliminated upon movement initiation. Surprisingly, older adults were both as fast and as accurate as young adults regardless of the vision or target condition. While the velocity profiles of young and older adults were also similar, older adults exhibited a greater number of deviations in acceleration in both the vision and no-vision situations. Since these deviations are thought to reflect adjustments to the movement trajectory, older adults may rely more on visual and kinesthetic feedback for the control of goal-directed movement.

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Dana Maslovat, Romeo Chua, Timothy D. Lee and Ian M. Franks

This experiment examined contextual interference in producing a bimanual coordination pattern of 90° relative phase. Acquisition, retention, and transfer performance were compared in a single-task control group and groups that performed 2 tasks in either a blocked or random presentation. Surprisingly, acquisition data revealed that both the random and control groups outperformed the blocked group. Retention data showed a typical CI effect for performance variability, with the random group outperforming the blocked group. Neither the random nor blocked groups outperformed the control group, suggesting interference of a second task may be as beneficial to learning as extra practice on the initial task. No group effects were found during transfer performance. Results suggest that random practice is beneficial for learning only one task.

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Shannon D. Ringenbach, Romeo Chua, Brian K. V. Maraj, James C. Kao and Daniel J. Weeks

Previous experiments involving discrete unimanual tasks have shown that individuals with Down syndrome (DS) have auditory/verbal-motor deficits. The present study investigated unimanual and bimanual continuous perceptual-motor actions in adults with DS. Ten adults with DS, 10 typical adults, and 10 children drew continuous circles at increasing periods bimanually and unimanually with each hand. Movement was paced by either a visual or an auditory metronome. The results revealed that for circle shape and coordination measures, children and adults were more accurate with the visual metronome, whereas adults with DS were more accurate with the auditory metronome. In the unimanual tasks, adults with DS displayed hand asymmetries on spatial measures. In the bimanual task, however, adults with DS adopted an in-phase coordination pattern and stability more similar to adults than children. These results suggest that bimanual coordination in adults with DS is functioning effectively despite hand asymmetries evident in unimanual performance.

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Dana Maslovat, Shannon S.D. Bredin, Romeo Chua and Ian M. Franks

A major component of a dynamical paradigm involves a “scanning” procedure in an attempt to determine an individual’s intrinsic coordination tendencies before learning, as well as subsequent changes in the coordination landscape after practice. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate two methods of the scanning procedure. Scans were performed before and after 75 trials of a 90° bimanual-coordination pattern and were compared with early and late acquisition trials. Four groups of participants performed scanning and acquisition trials using a combination of either concurrent visual feedback in the form of Lissajous figures, paced by an auditory metronome, or visual metronomes in the form of flashing stimuli. Analyses revealed that all groups improved performance of the 90° pattern with practice. As predicted by the theory of practice specificity, scanning via the same method as acquisition appears to be valid. Scanning via Lissajous figures when the acquisition procedure was flashing squares was also found to be valid, but not the opposite condition. Reasons for this unidirectional transfer are given with these results suggesting that the sensitivity of a given scanning method might be influenced by the method of acquiring the coordination pattern.