Preparatory state and postural adjustment strategies for choice reaction step initiation.

A loud auditory stimulus (LAS) presented simultaneously with a visual imperative stimulus can reduce reaction time (RT) by automatically triggering a movement prepared in the brain and has been used to investigate a movement preparation. It is still under debate whether or not a response is prepared in advance in RT tasks involving choice responses. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the preparatory state of anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) during a choice reaction step initiation. Thirteen young adults were asked to step forward in response to a visual imperative stimulus in two choice stepping conditions: (i) the responding side is not known and must be selected and (ii) the responding side is known but whether to initiate or inhibit a step response must be selected. LAS was presented randomly and simultaneously with the visual imperative stimulus. LAS significantly increased the occurrence rates of inappropriately initiated APAs while reducing the RTs of correct and incorrect trials in both task conditions, demonstrating that LAS triggered the prepared APA automatically.

This observation suggests that APAs are prepared in advance and withheld from release until the appropriate timing during a choice reaction step initiation. The preparatory activity of APAs might be modulated by the inhibitory activity required by the choice tasks. The preparation strategy may be chosen for fast responses and is judged most suitable to comply with the tasks because inappropriately initiated APAs can be corrected without making complete stepping errors.

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