Pupil diameter may reflect motor control and learning


Journal Article


White, O., French, R. M.




Pupil diameter may reflect motor control and learning

Journal / Livre / Conférence

Journal of Motor Behavior, DOI: 10.1080/00222895.2016.1161593


Non–luminance-mediated changes in pupil diameter have been used since the first studies by Darwin in 1872 as indicators of clinical, cognitive, and arousal states. However, the relation between processes involved in motor control and changes in pupil diameter remains largely unknown. Twenty participants attempted to compensate random walks of a cursor with a computer mouse to restrain its trajectory within a target circle while the authors recorded their pupil diameters. Two conditions allowed the authors to experimentally manipulate the motor and cognitive components of the task. First, the step size of the cursor’s random walk was either large or small leading to 2 task difficulties (difficult or easy). Second, they instructed participants to imagine controlling the cursor by moving the mouse, but without actually moving it (task modality: imagined movement or real movement condition). Task difficulty and modality allowed the authors to show that pupil diameters reflect processes involved in motor control and in the processing of feedback, respectively. Furthermore, the authors also demonstrate that motor learning can be quantified by pupil size. This noninvasive approach provides a promising method for investigating not only motor control, but also motor imagery, a research field of growing importance in sports and rehabilitation.


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