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On the nature of stopping a voluntary action

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Title: On the nature of stopping a voluntary action
Author: McGarry, James Timothy
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Human Kinetics
Copyright Date: 1999
Subject Keywords Human locomotion -- Measurement.; Reaction time.; Reflexes.; Electromyography.; H-Reflex -- physiology.
Abstract: The stopping of an earlier intended action is best explained in a race between a go process and a stop process (Logan & Cowan, 1984). The finish line, to which each process races, has been likened to a point of no return, specifically one that marks the onset of a final ballistic (unstoppable) process. Of note is the typical relation of reduced go probabilities and faster go latencies at shorter signal onset asynchronies (SOAs). (The SOA is the time interval between presentation of the go signal and presentation of the stop signal.) We report, in some cases, sub-maximal surface electromyograms (EMGs) at onset when trying to stop a maximal speeded action. These data indicate reduced synaptic drive to reach the motor pools as a result of earlier stopping effects and, as such, hold important implications for a theory of control. First, we interpret these data to suggest that the point of no return is phantom. Sub-maximal EMGs indicate a point in the control stream beyond which some EMG will be later observed but, importantly, they fail to mark the onset of a final ballistic process if, once breached, the same process remains subject to further effects of stopping. The alternative interpretation, however, that of a final ballistic process that receives sub-maximal input which results in sub-maximal output (i.e., EMG onset) cannot be ruled out from these data. We used the Hoffmann (H) reflex to probe further the mechanism of control for stopping a voluntary action. The H-reflex, an involuntary reflex that is taken as an index of spinal control, is relevant to the control of stopping because it is typically facilitated a short time before EMG onset. In other words, it provides a window of control within which a final ballistic process would otherwise be expected to locate. Thus, we interpret the effects of stopping on the H-reflex before EMG onset as strong evidence against a final ballistic process. Second, while the race model can explain the relation between the go probabilities, the go latencies and the SOAs, it fails to explain the sub-maximal EMG onsets that describe that same action in some cases. We submit a mechanism of excitatory-inhibitory interaction at all times up to the motor pool to explain both sets of empirical data. The viability of this theory is demonstrated using computer analyses.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/10172
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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