Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 233, Issue 8, pp 2291–2300 | Cite as

Degraded expression of learned feedforward control in movements released by startle

  • Zachary A. Wright
  • Anthony N. Carlsen
  • Colum D. MacKinnon
  • James L. Patton
Research Article


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.


Adaptation Learning Movement Upper extremity Healthy 



We thank Mark Shapiro for use of his Delsys EMG system and Vess Djeov for his technical assistance.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zachary A. Wright
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anthony N. Carlsen
    • 3
  • Colum D. MacKinnon
    • 4
  • James L. Patton
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BioengineeringUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Sensory Motor Performance ProgramRehabilitation Institute of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.School of Human Kinetics in Health SciencesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Department of NeurologyUniversity of MinnesotaTwin CitiesUSA

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