In the present experiment, the temporal predictability of response time was systematically manipulated to examine its effect on the time course of motor pre-programming and release of the intended movement by an acoustic startle stimulus. Participants performed a ballistic right wrist extension task in four different temporal conditions: 1) a variable foreperiod simple RT task, 2) a fixed foreperiod simple RT task, 3) a low resolution countdown anticipation-timing task, and 4) a high resolution anticipation-timing task. For each task, a startling acoustic stimulus (124dB) was presented at several intervals prior to the "go" signal ("go" -150ms, -500ms, and -1500ms). Results from the startle trials showed that the time course of movement pre-programming was affected by the temporal uncertainty of the imperative "go" cue. These findings demonstrate that the resolution of the timing information regarding the response cue has a marked effect on the timing of movement preparation such that under conditions of low temporal resolution, participants plan the movement well in advance in accordance with the anticipated probability of onset of the cue, whereas movement preparation is delayed until less than 500ms prior to response time when continuous temporal information is provided.
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