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Information for anticipatory neuromotor control in catching under load uncertainty


Humans employ anticipatory muscle activation when catching under conditions of load uncertainty. Questions addressed were (a) on what information referent do catchers base their anticipatory neuromotor control when catching balls of unknown weight?, and (b) how do catchers use this functional referent? Thirty-six participants caught visually identical balls dropped from 0.75 m. Participants performed 40 trials, half with knowledge of ball weight and half without. Group L caught balls with a large weight range, while group S caught balls with a smaller range of weights. EMG integrals were computed for the ball flight period in five muscles. Anticipatory EMG integrals in the unknown weight condition were normalized to anticipatory EMG integrals for the maximum, minimum and average ball weights in the known ball weight condition. We assumed participants would base anticipatory control in the unknown weight condition on similar information, regardless of group. Therefore, differences in normalized EMG integrals between groups L and S would suggest that the specific referent tested (e.g., minimum possible ball weight) was not used to scale anticipatory muscle activation under load uncertainty. Independent sample t tests ascertained differences in normalized EMG integrals between groups L and S. The results suggested that the information referent participants used to catch balls of an unknown weight was knowledge of the maximum ball weight. Participants used this referent to generate a submaximal level of anticipatory muscle activation, i.e., about 93.2% of that used to catch the heaviest ball when ball weight was known in advance.

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Correspondence to William P. Berg.

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Communicated by Melvyn A. Goodale.

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Berg, W.P., Hughes, M.R. Information for anticipatory neuromotor control in catching under load uncertainty. Exp Brain Res 238, 1285–1292 (2020).

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