Neurophysiological correlates and cognitive components of motor and action control

Acronym: 
NCMAC
Research Areas: 
A
B
D
C
Abstract: 

People can anticipate actions and mentally represent their future postures. Cognitive components of this kind of motor planning can be investigated using the end-state comfort effect, which describes a preference for grasping objects with an uncomfortable initial posture in order to end up in a comfortable position at the end of the movement. The aim of this project is to investigate the neurophysiological correlates of the end-state comfort effect and the temporal progress of the event-related potentials underlying movement planning.

 

Methods and Research Questions: 

Movement planning is a fundamental mechanism in the field of motor control. People can anticipate actions and are able to mentally represent their future postures.

Cognitive components of this kind of motor control can be investigated using the end-state comfort effect, which describes a preference for grasping objects with an uncomfortable initial posture in order to end up in a comfortable position at the end of the movement. The neurophysiological basis of the cognitive components of motor control is still unknown. It can be estimated using event related-potentials (ERPs), which can be measured using electroencephalography (EEG). EEG, which is a method for assessing brain activity, has a high temporal resolution. It provides information about when brain regions are active. These activations are a biophysiological indicator of psychological processes. Extracting information from brain signals using this technique is of great value for motor control research. Surprisingly, the end state-comfort effect has not been studied using neurophysiological methods such as ERPs, although this may help reveal the neural and temporal dynamics of movement planning. The aim of our project is therefore to investigate the neurophysiological correlates of the end-state comfort effect and the temporal progress of the ERPs underlying movement planning.

ERPs for the end-state comfort effect will be recorded while participants are sitting in an electrically shielded chamber. Participants will perform a grasp-and-rotation-task according to stimuli which will be presented on a screen. Different stimuli will force participants to vary their grasps and end-states. Artifacts will be isolated and removed from the EEG data. The data will be analyzed after signal processing has been done. The data will be analyzed for differences between movements that end in a comfortable end-state and movements that end in an uncomfortable end-state. If the end-state comfort effect consists almost exclusively of motor planning, this should affect motor-related components, closely time-related to the response and will appear in response locked analysis. In contrast, if cognition related components are heavily involved in the end-state comfort effect, this will appear in stimulus locked analysis.

 

Outcomes: 

Our ERP study is likely to advance our understanding of the neural and temporal dynamics of movement planning and execution. Neural mechanisms underlying the end-state comfort effect can be studied examining differences between movements ending in a comfortable or uncomfortable posture. This should allow new insights into the neurophysiological basis of cognitive components of anticipated and goal-directed action.