A Timeline of Motor Preparatory State Prior to Response Initiation: Evidence from Startle.


School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, 125 University Private, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


Response preparation in simple reaction time (RT) tasks has been modeled as an increase in neural activation to a sub-threshold level, which is maintained until the go-signal. However, the amount of time required for response preparation following a warning signal (WS) is currently unclear, as experiments typically employ long foreperiods to ensure maximal preparation. The purpose of the present experiments was to examine the time course of motor preparation in a simple RT task when given a limited amount of time to engage in preparatory processing. In Experiment 1, participants completed wrist extension movements in a simple RT paradigm with a short (500 ms) fixed foreperiod, and a long (8.5-10.5 s) inter-trial interval. To probe response preparation, a startling acoustic stimulus (SAS), which involuntarily triggers the release of sufficiently prepared responses, was randomly presented during the foreperiod at one of six equally spaced time points between 0 and 500 ms prior to the go-signal. Results showed that the long inter-trial interval was not always effective at preventing participants from engaging in preparatory processing between trials; thus, in Experiment 2 participants performed wrist flexion or extension movements in an instructed delay paradigm, where the required movement was cued by the WS. Results showed that the proportion of startle trials where the intended response was elicited by the SAS at short latency significantly increased until 100 ms prior to the go-signal, indicating response preparation can take up to 300-400 ms following the WS in a simple RT task with a short fixed foreperiod.


StartReact,electromyography,motor preparation,reaction time,startle,