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Scott C. Wearing, James E. Smeathers and Stephen R. Urry

Studies investigating the effect of targeting on gait have focused on the analysis of ground reaction force (GRF) within the time domain. Analysis within the frequency domain may be a more sensitive method for evaluating variations in GRF. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of visual targeting on GRF analyzed within the frequency domain. A within-subject repeated-measures design was used to measure the mediolateral, vertical, and antero-posterior components of the GRF of 11 healthy volunteers while walking at their own pace over a paper-covered walkway. A 30 × 24-cm target area was superimposed over a hidden Kistler force plate mounted at the midpoint of the walkway. GRF were recorded with and without the target and were analyzed within the frequency domain. Although visually guided foot placement has previously been undetected by traditional time-domain measures, targeting was found to significantly increase the frequency content of both the mediolateral (t10 = -4.07, p < 0.05) and antero-posterior (t10 = -2.52, p < 0.05) components of GRF. Consequently, it appears that frequency analysis is a more sensitive analytic technique for evaluating GRF. These findings have methodological implications for research in which GRF is used to characterize and assess anomalies in gait patterns.

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Matthew Heath, David A. Westwood and Gordon Binsted

The goal of the present investigation was to explore the putative contributions of feedforward- and feedback-based processes in the control of memory-guided reaching movements. Participants (N = 4) completed an extensive number of reaching movements (2700) to 3 midline targets (20, 30, 40 cm) in 6 visual conditions: full-vision, open-loop, and four memory-guided conditions (0, 200, 400, and 600 ms of delay). To infer limb control, we used a regression technique to examine the within-trial correspondence between the spatial position of the limb at peak acceleration, peak velocity, peak deceleration, and the ultimate movement endpoint. A high degree of within-trial correspondence would suggest that the final position of the limb was largely specified prior to movement onset and not adjusted during the action (i.e., feedforward control); conversely, a low degree of within-trial correspondence would suggest that movements were modified during the reaching trajectory (i.e., feedback control). Full-vision reaches were found to be more accurate and less variable than open-loop and memory-guided reaches. Moreover, full-vision reaches demonstrated only modest within-trial correspondence between the spatial position of the limb at each kinematic marker and the ultimate movement endpoint, suggesting that reaching accuracy was achieved by adjusting the limb trajectory throughout the course of the action. Open-loop and memory-guided movements exhibited strong within-trial correspondence between final limb position and the position of the limb at peak velocity and peak deceleration. This strong correspondence indicates that the final position of the limb was largely determined by processes that occurred before the reach was initiated; errors in the planning process were not corrected during the course of the action. Thus, and contrary to our previous findings in a video-based aiming task, it appears that stored target information is not extensively (if at all) used to modify the trajectory of reaching movements to remembered targets in peripersonal space.

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Matthew Heath

This investigation tested the proposal that a “highly accurate” and temporally unstable stored target representation is available to the motor system for the online control of memory-guided reaches. Participants reached to a target that was: (a) visible during the response, (b) extinguished at movement onset, and (c) occluded for 0, 500, 1500 and 2,500 ms in advance of response cueing. Additionally, trials were performed with (i.e., limb visible) and without (i.e., limb occluded) vision of the reaching limb. Results showed that limb occluded trials undershot the target location in each target condition, and were characterized by a primarily offline mode of control. In contrast, limb visible trials showed a consistent level of endpoint accuracy for each target condition and elicited more online reaching corrections than limb occluded trials. It is therefore proposed that a reasonably accurate and temporally stable stored target representation can be combined with vision of the moving limb for the online control of memory-guided reaches.

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Matthew Heath and David A. Westwood

We investigated whether a representation of a visual target can be stored in memory and used to support the online control of reaching movements. To distinguish between the use of a stored target representation for movement planning versus online control, we employed a novel movement environment in which participants could not fully plan their action in advance of movement initiation; that is, the spatial mapping between the movement of a computer mouse and the on-screen movement of a cursor was randomly varied from trial to trial. As such, participants were required to use online control to reach the target position. Reaches were examined in full-vision and three memory-dependent conditions (0, 2, and 5 s of delay). Absolute constant error did not accumulate between full-vision and brief delay trials (i.e., the 0-s delay), suggesting a stored representation of the visual target can be used for online control of reaching given a sufficiently brief delay interval. Longer delay trials (2 and 5 s) were less accurate and more variable than brief delay trials; however, the residual accuracy of these memory-dependent actions suggests that the motor system may have access to a stored representation of the visual target for online control processes for upwards of 5 s following target occlusion.

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Kathleen Williams, Lavon Williams and H. Scott Strohmeyer

This longitudinal investigation examined the shift from use of a marking time to an alternating stepping pattern by young children. A set of twin males was videotaped between ages 37 and 46 months climbing stairs of 3.8-17.8 cm height. One boy began to alternate consistently on the highest steps at 41 months, the other at 46 months. Anthropometries (leg lengths) and a measure of foot overshoot (maximum height of the foot over the stair) were used to investigate the timing of the shift for the 2 boys. Magnitude of overshoot decreased with age and with increased use of the more advanced pattern. Immature balance and an initial need to visually guide the foot to the next step may be important factors in the timing of the pattern shift.

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Olav Krigolson, Jon Bell, Courtney M. Kent, Matthew Heath and Clay B. Holroyd

We used the event-related potential (ERP) methodology to examine differences in neural processing between visually and memory-guided reaches. Consistent with previous findings (e.g., Westwood, Heath, & Roy, 2003), memory-guided reaches undershot veridical target location to a greater extent than their visually guided counterparts. Analysis of the ERP data revealed that memory-guided reaches were associated with reduced potentials over medial-frontal cortex at target presentation and following movement onset. Further, we found that the amplitudes of the potentials over medial-frontal cortex for visually and memory-guided reaches were significantly correlated with the peak accelerations and decelerations of the reaching movements. Our results suggest that memory-guided reaches are mediated by a motor plan that is generated while a target is visible, and then stored in memory until needed—a result counter to recent behavioral theories asserting that memory-guided reaches are planned just before movement onset via a stored, sensory-based target representation.

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James W. Roberts

Investigations of visually guided target-directed movement frequently adopt measures of within-participant spatial variability to infer the contribution of planning and control. The present study aims to verify this current trend by exploring the distribution of displacements at kinematic landmarks with a view to understand the potential sources of variability. Separate sets of participants aiming under full visual feedback conditions revealed a comparatively normal distribution for the displacements at peak velocity and movement end. However, there was demonstrable positive skew in the displacement at peak acceleration and a significant negative skew at peak deceleration. The ranges of the distributions as defined by either ±1SD or ±34.13th percentile (equivalent to an estimated 68.26% of responses) also revealed differences at peak deceleration. These findings indicate that spatial variability in the acceleration domain features highly informative systematic, as well as merely inherent, sources of variability. Implications for the further quantification of trial-by-trial behavior are discussed.

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Jack R. Engsberg, Joanne M. Wagner, Angela K. Reitenbach, Kevin W. Hollander and John W. Standeven

This investigation developed a measure of motor control for the knee extensors in adults with cerebral palsy (CP). Four adults with CP and 4 able-bodied (AB) adults participated. A KinCom dynamometer rotated the knee from approximately 90º of knee flexion to 10º/s less than the participant’s maximum knee extension at a speed of 10º/s, while the participant attempted to match a 44.5-N “target” force. The average, standard deviation, and median frequency of the force-time data were used to describe the test results. The individual force values for the AB group were near the target force and clustered together. The values for the CP group were also near the target force, but displayed greater variation. The average standard deviation for the CP group was more than three times larger than that of the AB group. The average median frequency for the CP group was less than that of the AB group. Results pointed to differing strategies for each group as they attempted to match the target force. The AB group attempted to match the target force with frequent small-magnitude force changes, while the CP group attempted to match the target force with fewer oscillations of greater magnitude. The methods employed in the present investigation are initial attempts to quantify one aspect of motor control, a visually guided tracking task.

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Nicole Wenderoth, Otmar Bock and Rainer Krohn

The present study investigates whether the acquisition of a rhythmical bimanual coordination pattern is influenced by existing intrinsic coordination tendencies. Participants were required to learn 1 of 5 new coordination patterns, whose relative phase ϕ was either 36, 60, or 90° away from the 0° and 180° attractors, respectively. They performed 35 trials, each consisting of 2 conditions: In the augmented feedback condition, continuous visual guidance was provided, while in the normal feedback condition participants were required to rely on normal vision of their arms. We found that all to-be-learned patterns were performed with higher accuracy in the visually guided condition, whereas interference with pre-existing coordination tendencies was more pronounced in the normal vision condition. Comparing the learning progress of the 5 groups, we found for patterns close to anti-phase, a smaller improvement and significantly larger phase errors than for patterns close to in-phase. This indicates that the acquisition of a new phase relationship is influenced by existing attractors and that the 180º attractor interfered more strongly with the to-be-learned pattern than the 0º attractor.

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Amanda M. Ward, Torrey M. Loucks, Edward Ofori and Jacob J. Sosnoff

Audiomotor and visuomotor short-term memory are required for an important variety of skilled movements but have not been compared in a direct manner previously. Audiomotor memory capacity might be greater to accommodate auditory goals that are less directly related to movement outcome than for visually guided tasks. Subjects produced continuous isometric force with the right index finger under auditory and visual feedback. During the first 10 s of each trial, subjects received continuous auditory or visual feedback. For the following 15 s, feedback was removed but the force had to be maintained accurately. An internal effort condition was included to test memory capacity in the same manner but without external feedback. Similar decay times of ~5–6 s were found for vision and audition but the decay time for internal effort was ~4 s. External feedback thus provides an advantage in maintaining a force level after feedback removal, but may not exclude some contribution from a sense of effort. Short-term memory capacity appears longer than certain previous reports but there may not be strong distinctions in capacity across different sensory modalities, at least for isometric force.