Startle stimuli reduce the internal model control in discrete movements

Zachary A. Wright, Mark W. Rogers, Colum D. MacKinnon, James L. Patton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A well known and major component of movement control is the feedforward component, also known as the internal model. This model predicts and compensates for expected forces seen during a movement, based on recent experience, so that a well-learned task such as reaching to a target can be executed in a smooth straight manner. It has recently been shown that the state of preparation of planned movements can be tested using a startling acoustic stimulus (SAS). SAS, presented 500, 250 or 0 ms before the expected "go" cue resulted in the early release of the movement trajectory associated with the after-effects of the force field training (i.e. the internal model). In a typical motor adaptation experiment with a robot-applied force field, we tested if a SAS stimulus influences the size of after-effects that are typically seen. We found that in all subjects the after-effect magnitudes were significantly reduced when movements were released by SAS, although this effect was not further modulated by the timing of SAS. Reduced after-effects reveal at least partial existence of learned preparatory control, and identify startle effects that could influence performance in tasks such as piloting, teleoperation, and sports.


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