The Effect of Practice on Learning and Transferring Goal Directed Isometric Contractions across Ipsilateral Upper and Lower Limbs
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The purpose of this thesis was to determine whether practice-induced adjustments and retention of a goal directed isometric motor accuracy task were similar between ipsilateral upper and lower limb and whether there is an ipsilateral transfer between upper and lower limbs. In addition, this thesis project aimed to determine whether motor output variability and the activity of the involved agonist and antagonist muscles could predict any of the above stated changes. Sixteen young adults (8 men, 8 women; 22.1 or - 2.1 years) performed 80 trials of goal directed isometric contractions that involved accurately matching a target force of 25% MVC in 200 ms, either with the upper limb or the lower limb followed by the other limb. After an interval of 48 hours, 10 trials similar to the practice trials were performed to examine retention. Feedback of performance was provided in the form of a force-time trajectory along with numerical error values for force and time on each trial. End-point error was quantified as the absolute deviation from the targeted force and time. Motor output variability was quantified as the SD of force, SD of time to peak force and SD of force trajectory. The practice-induced adjustments for force and time endpoint accuracy were similar for the two limbs, however, two days later, retention of the force accuracy was better with the upper limb compared with the lower limb. Practice-induced reduction and practice-to-retention increase in force and time endpoint error were predicted by respective changes in peak force and time to peak force trial-to-trial variability for both limbs. In addition, the changes in accuracy were predicted by the changes in the activity of the involved agonist and antagonist muscles. Nonetheless, the changes in muscle activity differed between the two limbs. The adjustments in muscle activity were also different during the practice session despite the fact that the rate of improvement was similar for the two limbs. Finally, there was an asymmetric transfer of force accuracy from the lower limb to the ipsilateral upper limb, which was associated with the changes in motor output variability. The upper limb, which is inherently less variable as compared to the lower limb, may have retained the task better due to the formation of a stronger muscle synergy (or stronger internal model) to perform the contractions with accuracy. The lower limb, on the other hand may have formed a weaker internal model due to the greater interference from amplified signal-dependent noise (motor output variability) or an alternative motor plan, which may have been concerned primarily with the minimization of motor output variability instead of formation of a muscle synergy to perform the contractions accurately.
Subjectgoal directed isometric contractions
Practice induced adjustments
motor output variability
Kaur, Navneet (2009). The Effect of Practice on Learning and Transferring Goal Directed Isometric Contractions across Ipsilateral Upper and Lower Limbs. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from