Startle Distinguishes Task Expertise

Document
Description

Recently, it was demonstrated that startle-evoked-movements (SEMs) are present during individuated finger movements (index finger abduction), but only following intense training. This demonstrates that changes in motor planning, which occur

Recently, it was demonstrated that startle-evoked-movements (SEMs) are present during individuated finger movements (index finger abduction), but only following intense training. This demonstrates that changes in motor planning, which occur through training (motor learning - a characteristic which can provide researchers and clinicians with information about overall rehabilitative effectiveness), can be analyzed with SEM. The objective here was to determine if SEM is a sensitive enough tool for differentiating expertise (task solidification) in a common everyday task (typing). If proven to be true, SEM may then be useful during rehabilitation for time-stamping when task-specific expertise has occurred, and possibly even when the sufficient dosage of motor training (although not tested here) has been delivered following impairment. It was hypothesized that SEM would be present for all fingers of an expert population, but no fingers of a non-expert population. A total of 9 expert (75.2 ± 9.8 WPM) and 8 non-expert typists, (41.6 ± 8.2 WPM) with right handed dominance and with no previous neurological or current upper extremity impairment were evaluated. SEM was robustly present (all p < 0.05) in all fingers of the experts (except the middle) and absent in all fingers of non-experts except the little (although less robust). Taken together, these results indicate that SEM is a measurable behavioral indicator of motor learning and that it is sensitive to task expertise, opening it for potential clinical utility.