Degraded expression of learned feedforward control in movements released by startle

Wright Z, MacKinnon C, Carlson A, Patton JL (2015) “Degraded expression of learned feedforward control in movements released by startle”  Experimental Brain Research, 233(8) 2291-2300. EXBR-D-14-00234R1

Experimental Brain Research, August 2015, Volume 233, Issue 8, pp 2291-2300,
First online:


Recent work has shown that preplanned motor programs can be rapidly released via fast conducting pathways using a startling acoustic stimulus. Our question was whether the startle-elicited response might also release a recently learned internal model, which draws on experience to predict and compensate for expected perturbations in a feedforward manner. Our initial investigation using adaptation to robotically produced forces showed some evidence of this, but the results were potentially confounded by co-contraction caused by startle. In this study, we eliminated this confound by asking subjects to make reaching movements in the presence of a visual distortion. Results show that a startle stimulus (1) decreased performance of the recently learned task and (2) reduced after-effect magnitude. Since the recall of learned control was reduced, but not eliminated during startle trials, we suggest that multiple neural centers (cortical and subcortical) are involved in such learning and adaptation. These findings have implications for motor training in areas such as piloting, teleoperation, sports, and rehabilitation.

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