Authors: Jason P Gallivan, Kathryn S Barton, Craig S Chapman, Daniel M Wolpert, J Randall Flanagan

PMID: 26130029

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8428

Publication Type: Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t

ISSN: 2041-1723

Journal Title: Nature communications

Publication Date: 2015 07 01


Several influential cognitive theories propose that in situations affording more than one possible target of action, we prepare multiple competing movements before selecting one. Here we provide direct evidence for this provocative but largely untested idea and demonstrate why preparing multiple movements is computationally advantageous. Using a reaching task in which movements are initiated after one of two potential targets is cued, we show that the movement generated for the cued target borrows components of the movement that would have been required for the other, competing target. This interaction can only arise if multiple potential movements are fully specified in advance and we demonstrate that it reduces the time required to launch a given action plan. Our findings suggest that this co-optimization of motor plans is highly automatic and largely occurs outside conscious awareness.

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