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Attention and the readiness for action

Baker, Katharine S., Mattingley, Jason B., Chambers, Christopher D. and Cunnington, Ross 2011. Attention and the readiness for action. Neuropsychologia 49 (12) , pp. 3303-3313. 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.08.003

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The initiation of voluntary action is preceded by up to 2 s of preparatory neural activity, originating in premotor and supplementary motor regions of the brain. The function of this extended period of pre-movement activity is unclear. Although recent studies have suggested that pre-movement activity is influenced by attention to action, little is understood about the specific processes that are involved in this preparatory period prior to voluntary action. We recorded readiness potentials averaged from EEG activity as participants made voluntary self-paced finger movements. We manipulated the processing resources available for action preparation using concurrent perceptual load and cognitive working memory load tasks. Results showed that pre-movement activity was significantly reduced only under conditions of high working memory load, when resources for planning action were limited by the concurrent cognitive load task. In contrast, limiting attentional resources in the perceptual load task had no effect on pre-movement readiness activity. This suggests that movement preparatory processes involve mechanisms of cognitive control that are also required for working memory, and not more general engagement of selective attentional resources. We propose that the extended period of pre-movement neural activity preceding voluntary action reflects the engagement of cognitive control mechanisms for endogenously orienting attention in time, in readiness for the initiation of voluntary action.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: Motor preparation; Readiness potential; ERPs; Attention; Cognitive control
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0028-3932
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 02:48

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