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Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 194, Issue 1, pp 143–155 | Cite as

The serial reaction time task revisited: a study on motor sequence learning with an arm-reaching task

  • Clara Moisello
  • Domenica Crupi
  • Eugene Tunik
  • Angelo Quartarone
  • Marco Bove
  • Giulio Tononi
  • M. Felice GhilardiEmail author
Research Article

Abstract

With a series of novel arm-reaching tasks, we have shown that visuomotor sequence learning encompasses the acquisition of the order of sequence elements, and the ability to combine them in a single, skilled behavior. The first component, which is mostly declarative, is reflected by changes in movement onset time (OT); the second, which occurs without subject’s awareness, is measured by changes in kinematic variables, including movement time (MT). Key-press-based serial reaction time tasks (SRTT) have been used to investigate sequence learning and results interpreted as indicative of the implicit acquisition of the sequence order. One limitation to SRT studies, however, is that only one measure is used, the response time, the sum of OT and MT: this makes interpretation of which component is learnt difficult and disambiguation of implicit and explicit processes problematic. Here, we used an arm-reaching version of SRTT to propose a novel interpretation of such results. The pattern of response time changes we obtained was similar to the key-press-based tasks. However, there were significant differences between OT and MT, suggesting that both partial learning of the sequence order and skill improvement took place. Further analyses indicated that the learning of the sequence order might not occur without subjects’ awareness.

Keywords

Incidental learning Intentional learning Implicit learning Explicit learning Motor strategy Movement time 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Supported by a grant from McDonnell Foundation (MFG), NIH R01 NS054864 (MFG), R01 NS055185 (GT) and a large grant from NPF (MFG, GT). We thank Dr. John Krakauer for countless discussions and helpful advice. Data were collected with custom-designed software, MotorTaskManager, produced by E.T.T. s.r.l. (http://www.ettsolutions.com).

Supplementary material

221_2008_1681_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.8 mb)
Supplementary material (DOC 2823 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clara Moisello
    • 1
    • 2
  • Domenica Crupi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Eugene Tunik
    • 4
  • Angelo Quartarone
    • 3
  • Marco Bove
    • 2
  • Giulio Tononi
    • 5
  • M. Felice Ghilardi
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.SMILabs Without Frontiers, Department of Physiology and PharmacologyCUNY Medical SchoolNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.SMILabs Without Frontiers, Department of Experimental Medicine, Human PhysiologyUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly
  3. 3.SMILabs Without Frontiers, Department of Neuroscience, Anesthesiology and PsychiatryUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly
  4. 4.University of Medicine and Dentistry of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MadisonMadisonUSA

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