Responses to loud auditory stimuli indicate that movement-related activation builds up in anticipation of action

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Feb;109(4):996-1008. doi: 10.1152/jn.01119.2011. Epub 2012 Nov 21.


Previous research using a loud acoustic stimulus (LAS) to investigate motor preparation in reaction time (RT) tasks indicates that responses can be triggered well in advance of the presentation of an imperative stimulus (IS). This is intriguing given that high levels of response preparation cannot be maintained for long periods (≈ 200 ms). In the experiments reported here we sought to assess whether response-related activation increases gradually over time in simple RT tasks. In experiment 1, a LAS was presented at different times just prior to the presentation of the IS to probe the level of activation for the motor response. In experiment 2, the same LAS was presented at different times after the presentation of the IS. The results provide evidence that response-related activation does increase gradually in anticipation of the IS, but it remains stable for a short time after this event. The data display a pattern consistent with the response being triggering by the LAS, rather than a reaction to the IS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Anticipation, Psychological*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Blinking
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Reflex, Startle