By Amy Vega - March 26, 2012
Temporal processing (or the timing of neural oscillations/transmissions) plays a critical role in coordinated motor movement. In this paper published in Science, the authors distinguish between “continuous” motor tasks, which involves moving steadily and smoothly at a certain pace, versus “discontinuous” motor tasks, which involve a succession of stops and starts as a person accomplishes each step of an overall goal (i.e., picking up a plate, walking it over to the table, and setting it down). They discuss the role of the cerebellum in each of these types of motor tasks and how the timing control for each differs in terms of the brain structures used, arguing that the cerebellum is involved only early on in setting the timing goal for continuous, smooth movements, but that the cerebellum is involved throughout the movement when it is discontinuous or involves several starts and stops by setting several, successive timing goals. Timing in the brain may be disrupted due to developmental disorder, trauma, or illness resulting in uncoordinated movement and/or cognitive impairment. The Interactive Metronome is a treatment program that measures and improves temporal processing, or timing in the brain, that is critical for movement and thinking.
Spencer, R.M.C., Zelaznik, H.N., Diedrichsen, J., and Ivry, R.B. (2003). Disrupted timing of discontinuous but not continuous movements by cerebellar lesions. Science, 300(5624), 1437-1442.