On Information Processing and Performing a Movement Sequence

Experimental Brain Research Supplement - 1986-01-01Massey JT, Schwartz AB, Georgopoulos AP
Is it possible to appreciably increase the speed of movement without degrading its accuracy? Or according to the information-thoretical formulation of Fitts (1954), is it possible to increase the information transmission capacity of the motor system? In a way, of course, this characterizes skilled motor performance. For example, a good tennis player is frequently both fast and accurate, especially so if one considers that the accuracy required under these circumstances extends to several aspects of movement, i.e., orientation of the hand, force of hitting the ball, precise timing, etc. How is that increase in information processing being accomplished? We suggest that a key factor responsible for the improved performance in skills that involve sequence of movements may be a simultaneity of motor processing. It seems that under certain conditions, generating a movement while another movement is evolving or being generated "primes" the preceptual-motor system so that, instead of being constrained it actually processes information more efficiently and emits movements that are faster than, and as accurate as, movements produced in isolation. We examined some of these questions in the experiments that we describe below.