Differential effects of two motor tasks on ERPs in an auditory classification task: Evidence of shared cognitive resources

Margot Schubert, Sönke Johannes, Matthias Koch, Bernardina M. Wieringa, Reinhard Dengler, Thomas F. Münte*

*Corresponding author for this work
24 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of the study was to assess cognitive demands and fatigue during the execution of two different motor tasks. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 15 healthy subjects while they concurrently performed, (1) one of two motor tasks, and (2) a three stimulus (70% standard tones, 15% target tones, 15% novel stimuli) auditory classification task. Both motor tasks required the externally paced adduction of the right thumb with the force task requiring a precise movement (feedback given) with about 50% of maximum force output (6 s on task, 4 s rest) while the displacement task required the same precise movement with only minimal force requirements. In separate sessions, both tasks were performed for about an hour with the subjects concurrently paying attention to the auditory task with button presses required for the target stimuli. This provided a dual task situation with trade-offs in P3b amplitude as a function of difficulty of the primary (motor) task. The P3b to the auditory target stimuli was reduced during the force session compared to the displacement session, indicating that the force-task placed a higher demand on cognitive resources. No differential effect of fatigue (time on task) could be ascertained over six consecutive parts of the session. The P3a component, a putative correlate of orienting of attention, showed a rapid attenuation over time but, attesting to its automatic nature, no effect of concurrent motor task. ERP components recorded timelocked to the movements showed a marked difference between the two tasks with the displacement task giving rise to higher amplitudes. Moreover, only for the force task an influence of time on task (fatigue) on the MP was found. The dual task methodology is a potentially useful tool to disentangle cognitive and motor components of central fatigue.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuroscience Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)125-134
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.1998

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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