The quick and the dead: when reaction beats intention

A. E. Welchman, J. Stanley, M. R. Schomers, R. C. Miall, H. H. Bulthoff
  • Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences, February 2010, Royal Society Publishing
  • DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.2123

Reactive vs. intentional movements

What is it about?

In everyday life, some of the movements we make come about because we decide to make them, while others are forced on us by events. These intentional vs. reactive movements may be controlled by different parts of the brain. Here we devised a competitive game ("laboratory gunfights") to test whether different types of movement have different characteristics. We show that the same movement is about 10% faster when it is made in reaction - suggesting a 'quick and dirty' system for reactive actions.

Why is it important?

Our paper develops a new method to uncover undiscovered properties of human movement production. The results draw an interesting parallel with Parkinson's disease (PD) where it is known that patients find intentional movements harder to execute than reactive ones. Thus, there is potential to use the paradigm as an early diagnostic marker for PD.

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The following have contributed to this page: Andrew Welchman