Motor preparation is modulated by the resolution of the response timing information

Anthony N. Carlsen, Colum D. MacKinnon

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55 Scopus citations


In the present experiment, the temporal predictability of response time was systematically manipulated to examine its effect on the time course of motor pre-programming and release of the intended movement by an acoustic startle stimulus. Participants performed a ballistic right wrist extension task in four different temporal conditions: 1) a variable foreperiod simple RT task, 2) a fixed foreperiod simple RT task, 3) a low resolution countdown anticipation-timing task, and 4) a high resolution anticipation-timing task. For each task, a startling acoustic stimulus (124 dB) was presented at several intervals prior to the "go" signal ("go" - 150 ms, - 500 ms, and - 1500 ms). Results from the startle trials showed that the time course of movement pre-programming was affected by the temporal uncertainty of the imperative "go" cue. These findings demonstrate that the resolution of the timing information regarding the response cue has a marked effect on the timing of movement preparation such that under conditions of low temporal resolution, participants plan the movement well in advance in accordance with the anticipated probability of onset of the cue, whereas movement preparation is delayed until less than 500 ms prior to response time when continuous temporal information is provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-49
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Mar 31 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada ( PDF-357177 to ANC) and the National Institutes of Health ( R01NS054199 to CDM).


  • Anticipation-timing
  • Motor preparation
  • Programming
  • Startle


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