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Action, time, and uncertainty: two types of temporal uncertainty in cognitive motor control

Schuur, F; (2012) Action, time, and uncertainty: two types of temporal uncertainty in cognitive motor control. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Time is a fundamental dimension of cognition and motor control. Preparation for imperative events, choosing the appropriate time to act if there are no external triggers, or deciding between action alternatives if their outcome depends on accurate timing, requires accurate estimates of time. Typically, the accuracy of such estimates is limited and we experience temporal uncertainty. I here distinguish between two types of temporal uncertainty: (a) external temporal uncertainty (ETU), which arises when the timing of imperative events is variable and (b) internal temporal uncertainty (ITU), arises as a consequence of “noisy” internal clocks. I present behavioural and neurophysiological studies on the effects of ETU and ITU on human cognitive motor control. A series of experiments first addressed how participants prepare for action in the face of ETU and ITU. Second, I explored the interaction between ETU, ITU, and uncertainty about the type of motor response (event uncertainty). Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), two experiments probed the neurophysiology of preparation for action under condition of ETU. One experiment aimed at offering a functional account of changes in cortico-spinal excitability (CSE), a measure of motor preparation, prior to imperative events by manipulating ETU. In a second experiment I then further explored the functional role of GABAA and GABAB receptor-dependent intracortical inhibitory circuits for action preparation using paired-pulse TMS protocols. Two final studies explored the effects of ETU and ITU on two classic areas in human information-processing: first, the ability to estimate and respond to ETU and ITU on a reward-based decision making task, and second whether multiple cues, informative about the correct time for action, increase precision in action timing through cue integration (thus reducing ITU). Results reveal that ETU and ITU are two qualitatively different types of constraint on action. They differ in their effects on action preparation and their interactions with event uncertainty. In choice situations, participants estimate ITU accurately but are biased regarding ETU. When there are multiple cues informative about action timing, participants use the most informative cue only. There are thus important differences between how people respond to temporal uncertainty arising from the external world and temporal uncertainty intrinsic to the generative processes within the action.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Action, time, and uncertainty: two types of temporal uncertainty in cognitive motor control
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1370579
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