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Keeping the Beat: Biomechanics and Brain in the Timing of Repeated Movements

Dr. Saul Sternberg

Monday, February 23, 2009, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

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The Wing-Kristofferson (1973) model has provided a widely accepted

and remarkably long-lived account of isochronous time production

(such as regular finger tapping). Each action by an effector is generated

by a two-stage process: a timing stage followed by a response stage; the

durations of these stages are variable and stochastically independent.

The model has been extended to complex rhythms and two-handed

tapping. And it has been applied in studies of brain damage and other

disorders, to deter mine which parts of the brain implement the two stages

and to better characterize the disorders.

That the model requires elaboration is shown by how effects on the

variances of the timing- and response-stage durations combine.+

One possibility is that rather than passively following central commands,

an effector may function as a partially autonomous tunable biomechanical

oscillator that smooths the output of the two-stage process. I describe

tests of this possibility, based on free tapping as well as on tapping in

synchrony with a metronome; some of the tests use delayed feedback.


+Collaborative with Teresa Pantzer.

Background Readings

Repp, B. H. (2005)

Sensory motor synchronization: A review of the tapping literature.

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 969-992.

++Vorberg, D. & Wing, A. (1996)

Modeling variability and dependence in timing.

In H. Heuer & S. W. Keele (Eds.), Handbook of perception and action, Vol. 2: Motor skills.

San Diego: Academic Press. Pp. 181-262.

Wing, A. M. (2002)

Voluntary timing and brain function: An information processing approach.

Brain and Cognition, 48, 7-30.

Wing, A. M. (1977)

Perturbations of auditory feedback delay and the timing of movement.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 3, 175-186.

Wing, A. M. & Kristofferson, A. B. (1973)

Response delays and the timing of discrete motor responses.

Perception & Psychophysics, 14, 5-12.

Dr. Saul Sternberg