The functional role of working memory in the (re-)planning and execution of grasping movements.


Three experiments were conducted to dissociate movement planning costs and movement execution costs in working memory (WM). The aim of the study was to clarify what kind of WM processes (verbal, spatial, or both) are recruited during movement planning and movement execution. Therefore, a WM task (verbal and spatial versions) was combined with a high-precision manual action. Participants initially planned a placing movement toward 1 of 2 targets, subsequently encoded verbal or spatial information in WM, and then executed the movement during the retention phase. We tested the impact of movement execution on memory performance (Experiment 1), the role of WM task difficulty as a moderating variable in motor-memory interactions (Experiment 2), and the impact of implementing a new motor plan during memory retention (Experiment 3). Our results show that movement execution disrupted spatial more than verbal memory (Experiment 1) and that this domain-specific interference pattern was independent of WM task difficulty (Experiment 2). Hence, the results of Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that executing a prepared movement recruits domain-specific visuospatial memory resources. Experiment 3 involved trials that required the implementation of a new motor plan. The additional planning requirement during the retention phase reduced performance in both WM tasks in equal measure beyond the relative movement execution costs observed in Experiments 1 and 2. These results provide evidence for distinct roles of WM in manual actions, with action execution requiring principally modality-specific capacities and (re-)planning engaging modality-general WM resources.

DOI: 10.1037/a0031398

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@article{Spiegel2013TheFR, title={The functional role of working memory in the (re-)planning and execution of grasping movements.}, author={Marnie Ann Spiegel and Dirk Koester and Thomas Schack}, journal={Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance}, year={2013}, volume={39 5}, pages={1326-39} }