Temporal Constraints in the Use of Auditory Action Effects for Motor Optimization

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For quick ballistic movements the possibility of making online adjustments is limited. However, when the same action (e.g., pressing a button) is repeated multiple times, trial-by-trial adjustments are possible: Previous studies found that participants utilized auditory effects as feedback to optimize the applied force for such tone eliciting actions. In the current study, it was examined whether this action-effect-related motor adaptation also occurred if a delay was inserted between the action and its auditory effect. In 2 experiments, participants applied force impulses to a force-sensitive resistor in a self-paced schedule. Action-effect delay was manipulated between experimental blocks in the 0- to 1,600-ms range. The level of motor adaptation diminished as a function of action-effect delay, with no adaptation observable for delays longer than 200 ms, which indicates that action-effect contingency in itself is not sufficient to warrant that sensory effects will be useful for action control. A third experiment also showed that the observed temporal constraint was not absolute: Adaptation at 200-ms delay was stronger in a group of participants who were exposed to 400-ms action-tone delays before testing, than in a group exposed to a 0-ms action-tone delay, suggesting that action-effect-related motor adaptation is influenced by prior experience.

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