The representation of time for motor learning

Neuron. 2005 Jan 6;45(1):157-67. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2004.12.017.


We have identified factors that control precise motor timing by studying learning in smooth pursuit eye movements. Monkeys tracked a target that moved horizontally for a fixed time interval before changing direction through the addition of a vertical component of motion. After repeated presentations of the same target trajectory, infrequent probe trials of purely horizontal target motion evoked a vertical eye movement around the time when the change in target direction would have occurred. The pursuit system timed the vertical eye movement by keeping track of the duration of horizontal target motion and by measuring the distance the target traveled before changing direction, but not by learning the position in space where the target changed direction. We conclude that high temporal precision in motor output relies on multiple signals whose contributions to timing vary according to task requirements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Time Perception / physiology*