Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 235, Issue 1, pp 15–27 | Cite as

Investigation of timing preparation during response initiation and execution using a startling acoustic stimulus

  • Dana MaslovatEmail author
  • Romeo Chua
  • Ian M. Franks
Research Article


The purpose of the current study was to examine the processes involved in the preparation of timing during response initiation and execution through the use of a startling acoustic stimulus (SAS). In Experiment 1, participants performed a delayed response task in which a two key-press movement was to be initiated 200 ms after an imperative signal (IS) with either a short (200 ms) or long (500 ms) interval between key-presses. On selected trials, a SAS was presented to probe the preparation processes associated with the initiation delay and execution of the inter-key interval. The SAS resulted in a significant decrease in the initiation time, which was attributed to a speeding of pacemaker pulses used to time the delay interval, caused by an increased activation due to the SAS. Conversely, the SAS delayed the short inter-key interval, which was attributed to temporary interference with cortical processing. In Experiment 2, participants performed a 500-ms delayed response task involving two key-presses 200 ms apart. In this condition, the SAS resulted in significantly decreased initiation time and a delayed inter-key interval (p = .053). Collectively, these results support a different timeline for the preparation of the delay interval, which is thought to be prepared in advance of the IS, and the inter-key interval, which is thought to be prepared following the IS. This conclusion provides novel information with regard to timing preparation that is consistent with models in which response preparation, initiation, and execution are considered separate and dissociable processes.


Delayed response Response preparation Startle Time estimation Timing 



Acknowledgements for this study go to separate Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Grant awarded to Ian M. Franks (RGPIN—2014-05172) and Romeo Chua (RGPIN—2014-06051). We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Laurence Chin for data collection and marking, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of KinesiologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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