2021/12/09 | Research | Rehabilitation & Neural Engineering

Influence of Task Instructions on Motor Performance

In neurorehabilitation, motor and cognitive aspects have been investigated and treated separately and seldomly been combined. The Motor Learning and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory, together with the Department of Neurology of the Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, and the Translational Research Center of the University Hospital of Psychiatry, have now evaluated in a study how written or visual commands influence motor performance and brain networks involved before and after training.

The team of biomedical engineers, neuropsychologists and clinicians had 36 healthy participants perform a complex virtual motor task in a videogame scenario while measuring their electrical brain activity (using electroencephalography, EEG). The goal was to drive participants’ attention towards task-relevant stimuli while performing a complex visuomotor task (surfing a boat towards a finish line by catching the ocean’s waves). Researchers provided participants with either written instructions, visual cues or no instructions on when and where to focus their attention.

Participants’ motor performance was measured, and attentional brain networks were observed using electroencephalographic (EEG) activity before and after training. Results showed that providing task instructions increases cognitive engagement and improves motor performance by enhancing different attentional networks. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that participants’ brain networks, observed before and after training using EEG, were modulated depending on the command type they received (visual vs written commands) during training.