Motor skills play a vital role in everyday activities that involve the movement of legs, arms, and the entire body, which can be grouped as gross and fine motor skills. Examples of gross motor skills include walking, running, jumping, and crawling. On the other hand, fine motor skills include writing, threading, and other small activities that require fine details. Reaction time (RT) usually determines how efficiently motor skills are executed. Therefore, it is important to have an in-depth understanding of the factors that affect reaction time.
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About the Poster
This poster summarizes an experiment that was done to determine the effect of attentional focus on premotor and motor constituents of reaction time. It consists of a brief introduction, methods, results, and conclusions. Major references that informed the study are also included.
The Rationale for Picking the Topic
Previous studies show that electromyography of precise muscles can split reaction time into premotor and motor components. Additionally, an external focus has been shown to lower reaction time as compared to an internal focus. However, it was uncertain what component of the reaction time would be affected by fractionated RT, which is the focus of this work.
How the Work Was Done
A total of 22 participants aged between 18 and 35 were assigned arbitrarily to an external and internal focus. A visual stimulus on a computer screen was used as a prompt to action (depressing the pedal). Reaction times were measured for 8 trials in 6 blocks.
The aim of this study was to determine the effects of attentional focus on the peripheral (MT) and central (PMT) components of fractionated reaction time. For this purpose, two different types of software (E-Prime 2.0 and AcqKnowledge) were programmed to fully integrate, allowing for millisecond timing precision and temporal syncing of the reaction time (RT) and surface electromyographic (sEMG) data. This is the first study that uses this approach to the best of the author’s knowledge.
The author used a simple action of elbow extension (a one-joint action) involving the triceps lateral muscles, which could be reproduced with ease. Furthermore, the experiment was customized to account for individual differences. The between groups design enabled the author to account for these variations, which enhanced the internal validity of the outcomes. The study outcomes supported the hypothesis that attentional focus affected reaction time. The findings showed that central processing speed was affected by attentional focus instead of muscle activating latency. The external focus led to faster RTs and premotor reaction times compared to the internal focus.
This method permitted an effective distinction of the actual time costs of central processing (PMT) against the time costs related with triggering the peripheral machinery that elicits movement, for example, the coupling of excitation and contraction of muscle fibers (MT). The EMG findings evaluated the reduction of muscle activation time (PMT) and showed that motor commands moved faster to the muscle under the external attentional focus as opposed to the internal focus condition. This observation implied that the planning of movement yields better outcomes when the focus of attention is directed externally.
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These findings can be applied to improving the execution of simple tasks in competitive sports. However, in light of these outcomes, it is uncertain whether similar outcomes can be achieved when an external attentional focus is applied in complex scenarios. Therefore, there is a need to replicate the procedure using a complex activity involving more than one joint to ascertain whether the same observation holds for multifaceted actions.
The ANOVA findings showed that attentional focus had a significant effect on RT and premotor time but not on motor time. The external focus led to faster RTs and premotor reaction times compared to the internal focus. It was concluded that attentional focus affected the speed of central processing instead of muscle activating latency.