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Influence of automatic word reading on motor control


M. Gentilucci, Istituto di Fisiologia Umana, via Gramsci 14, I-43100 Parma. E-mail: gentiluc@ipruniv.cce.unipr.rt


We investigated the possible influence of automatic word reading on processes of visuo-motor transformation. Six subjects were required to reach and grasp a rod on whose visible face the word ‘long’ or ‘short’ was printed. Word reading was not explicitly required. In order to induce subjects to visually analyse the object trial by trial, object position and size were randomly varied during the experimental session. The kinematics of the reaching component was affected by word presentation. Peak acceleration, peak velocity, and peak deceleration of arm were higher for the word ‘long’ with respect to the word ‘short’. That is, during the initial movement phase subjects automatically associated the meaning of the word with the distance to be covered and activated a motor program for a farther and/or nearer object position. During the final movement phase, subjects modified the braking forces (deceleration) in order to correct the initial error. No effect of the words on the grasp component was observed. These results suggest a possible influence of cognitive functions on motor control and seem to contrast with the notion that the analyses executed in the ventral and dorsal cortical visual streams are different and independent.

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