The effects of auditory cueing and auditory feedback on motor sequence learning in an implicit serial reaction time task
Broeckelmann, Elena M.
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The use of sound to enhance both the learning and performance of motor skills has recently gained interest in rehabilitation and sports contexts. While the benefits of auditory information for motor learning have been explored, studies have commonly implemented auditory cues or auditory feedback only, and the effects may be task specific. For example, sequence learning in the Serial Reaction Time Task (SRTT) is enhanced when auditory feedback is provided in the form of congruent tones, yet it is unknown if auditory cues facilitate motor sequence learning with the same processes, or to the same extent as auditory feedback. In the present experiment, 53 neurotypical adults (18-35years; 32 cis-females; 21 cis-males) were randomly assigned to three different groups in which they practiced a visual SRTT: Group 1 was supplemented with auditory cues; group 2 received auditory feedback; and group 3 performed without sound (control). Retention and transfer tests (i.e., the same sequence in the other two sensory conditions), and an explicit awareness test, were conducted 48 hours after the practice session. Changes in Total Sequence Time (TST), Constant Error (CE) and Variable Error (VE), and acquired knowledge of the 10-item sequence order quantified sequence learning and were assessed using a two-way mixed analysis of variance. A significant main effect of time was found, where performance improved during acquisition and was retained short-term. A group by block interaction indicated that learning was sequence-specific and only the auditory cue group maintained performance improvements when the sequence was perturbed. CE and VE outcomes showed that movement amplitude was generally undershot, while target midpoints in the X axis were overshot. On day 2, all groups performed better in the no sound transfer condition compared to the cueing transfer condition, indicating that participants were able to maintain performance when sound was removed. The explicit awareness test revealed that the cued participants were most aware of the sequence (72.2 %), while the feedback and no sound group recalled 40-50% of the sequence order. Regardless of the sound condition, all groups acquired and retained equivalent implicit knowledge, and did not become reliant on practice-specific sensory conditions.