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a Responses to the arrow were placed into 20-ms bins, according to their appearance relative to the closest corner drawn by the subject in the shape-drawing task. The vertical line (0 corner) shows the timing of the corner relative to the arrow responses. b The same data shown on an idealized shape with the length of each side representing the average time taken to draw a side (1,215 ms)  

a Responses to the arrow were placed into 20-ms bins, according to their appearance relative to the closest corner drawn by the subject in the shape-drawing task. The vertical line (0 corner) shows the timing of the corner relative to the arrow responses. b The same data shown on an idealized shape with the length of each side representing the average time taken to draw a side (1,215 ms)  

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The influence of a secondary task on speeded responses, and its effect on the outcome of more complex tasks has been studied in detail. However, the consequence of task interference on specific movement parameters other than speed and accuracy has been largely ignored. The current study examines how performing a secondary task impacts the drawing o...

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Guiding a reach when the spatial location of the viewed target and the hand movement are not congruent (i.e. decoupled) can rely on the use of explicit cognitive rules (strategic control) or on the implicit recalibration of gaze and the limb position (sensorimotor recalibration). We previously demonstrated, in a patient with optic ataxia (OA) having bilateral superior parietal lobule damage, an increased reliance on strategic control when performing a decoupled reach (Granek et al. 2013). To understand fundamental mechanisms of decoupled visuomotor control more generally and to test whether we could distinguish these two modes of movement control more specifically, we tested healthy participants in a cognitively-demanding dual task. Participants continuously counted backwards while simultaneously reaching towards horizontal (left or right) or diagonal (~top-left or ~top-right) targets with either veridical or rotated (90°) cursor feedback. By increasing the overall neural load and selectively compromising potentially overlapping neural circuits responsible for strategic control, the complex dual task served as a non-invasive means to disrupt the integration of a cognitive rule into a motor action. Complementary to our previous results observed in patients with OA, here our dual task led to greater performance deficits during movements that required an explicit rule, implying a selective disruption of strategic control in decoupled reaching. Our results suggest that distinct neural processing is required to control these different types of reaching, since, in considering the current results and previous patient results together, the two classes of movement could be differentiated depending on the type of interference. Copyright © 2014, Journal of Neurophysiology.
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Previously, we observed changes in the scale, rotation, and location of drawn shapes when subjects simultaneously performed a secondary task, but not in the shape or proportion of the drawing. We suggested the secondary task impacted motor planning and execution or proprioception of the primary task. To isolate for proprioceptive effects, here we used the same secondary task during passive shape perception. A robotic manipulandum moved the subject's hand around the perimeter of a template shape and then a test shape differing in size, proportion, or location. Subjects also performed the same primary task while simultaneously performing a secondary task of reporting the orientation of right or left tilted arrows. We compared the performance between single and dual task, and different workspaces. In single-task conditions, subjects perceived scale, location, and proportion very close to the actual (all biases under 1 cm). A secondary task only increased the uncertainty range for judgment of scale, with no other effect. Subjects judged shapes in the centered workspace to be smaller and closer relative to the template compared with those in the peripheral workspace, although in that workspace, it was more difficult to discern changes in the proportion of the shape. The result for scale in the current passive paradigm is not different from our active study in which efference copy was available. This suggests that the scale parameters of the shape, whether actively or passively encountered, are disrupted by task interference at the level of proprioception or sensory integration rather than motor planning and execution.