Surprisingly exact timing of voluntary movements

Almost everything we do -- walking, talking, or drinking coffee -- is completely dependent on accurate timing when activating many muscles at once. The prevailing theory has been that the exact timing of this type of movement is not voluntarily controlled, and the timing has therefore been assumed to be fully automated when learning movements. However, researchers at Lund University in Sweden now argue that this may be wrong. A new study shows that people are fully capable of controlling their blinking with a time precision that was previously believed not to be possible.

It has long been known that both animals and humans, through a type of learning known as eyeblink conditioning, can learn to blink in response to a tone with a precision of some tens of milliseconds. Previous studies have shown that eyeblink conditioning is dependent on the cerebellum and, so far, it has been assumed that the precise timing is completely automatic.

When researchers Anders Rasmussen and Dan-Anders Jirenhed performed laboratory studies as part of their teaching at the medical programme at Lund University, they discovered that the theory was incorrect in practice.

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