Neurocognitive modules of acquisition, execution and control of action and action knowledge

Acronym: 
MROGP
Research Areas: 
A
D
Abstract: 

The focus of my work lies in the field of motor control. I investigate human anticipatory movement planning during object manipulation tasks using a variety of behavioral and neurophysiological methods. The purpose of my research is to uncover the underlying mechanisms related to grasp planning and to outline potential dependencies between behavior and the structural representation of grasp postures.

 

Methods and Research Questions: 

The end-state comfort (ESC) describes people's tendency to tolerate uncomfortable initial positions in order to achieve comfortable end positions, and thus characterizes motor planning as an anticipated and goal-oriented process. Whether cognition and behavior concerning ESC are linked has not been empirically tested. The study aims to investigate this issue.

People often grasp objects with awkward initial postures in order to ensure comfortable postures at the end of the movement. This end-state comfort effect demonstrates that humans plan their movements in advance, and thus characterizes motor planning as an anticipated and goal-oriented process. Furthermore, it implies that people anticipate their own future body states, and that these body states are planned prior to movement execution. However, whether cognition and behavior concerning ESC are linked has not been empirically tested.
Thus, the study aims to investigate this issue during human prehensile actions and investigates underlying mechanisms of grasp planning. Furthermore, my research will examine potential dependencies between the structural representation and grip behavior in terms of ESC.

Underlying mechanisms of grasp planning during anticipatory planning in people is examined using a variety o behavioral and neurophysiological methods. The psychological methods will consist of the following experiments:

  1. Reaction time experiments where participants will have to answer a question regarding two shown pictures of a movement (initial and final grasp postures) as quickly as possible. The initial (prime) and final grasp posture (target) of a movement will be displayed as images in a sequential fashion using a priming paradigm with different object manipulations (tool use/tool transport)and different grasp postures (comfortable/uncomfortable final grasp posture).
  2. Behavioral grasping and placing tasks where participants will have to fulfil a task according to previous experiments in the field of ESC (Weigelt, Kunde, & Prinz 2006; Rosenbaum, Vaughan, Barnes, Marchak & Slotta 1990).

The neurophysiological method will be the EEG measurement and will be applied in addition to the reaction time experiments.

 

Outcomes: 

My research has demonstrated that people not only satisfy ESC more often but are also quicker to respond to images that depict comfortable end postures, with images depicting comfortable final grasp postures resulting in shorter reaction time values compared to images depicting uncomfortable final grasp postures.These results suggest that comfortable goal postures are represented in memory, and can be accessed and retrieved from memory faster than uncomfortable goal postures. Furthermore, the tendency for shorter reaction time values that were observed for tool use, compared to tool transport, supports the claim that objects are represented in terms of their affordances (Gibson, 1979), and the functional context in which the object is typically used.