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Title: The relationship between gaze and information pickup during action observation: implications for motor skill (re)learning
Authors: D’Innocenzo, Giorgia
Advisors: Bishop, D
Nowicky, A
Keywords: Skill acquisition;Motor resonance;Corticospinal excitability;Motor learning;Eye tracking
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: The aim of the present thesis was to investigate the relationship between individuals’ allocation of overt visual attention during action observation and their consequent pickup of information. Four interrelated studies were conducted to achieve this. In Study 1 we examined the effects of visual guidance – colour highlighting of relevant aspects of the action – on observational learning of the golf swing. The results showed that the visual guides facilitated novices’ intake of information pertaining to the model’s posture, which was reflected in faster learning. In the remaining studies, transcranial magnetic stimulation and eye tracking data were acquired concurrently to measure the interaction between gaze behaviour and motor resonance – a neurophysiological index of the motor system’s engagement with a viewed action, and thus a correlate of information extraction. In Study 2, we directed observers’ gaze to distinct locations of the display while they viewed thumb adduction/abduction movements. The results showed that, by directing gaze to a location that maximised the amount of thumb motion across the fovea, motor resonance was maximised relative to a free viewing condition. In Study 3 we examined the link between gaze and motor resonance during the observation of transitive actions. Participants viewed reach-to-grasp actions with natural gaze, or while looking at a target- or an effector- based visual guide. The results showed that the effector-based guide disrupted natural gaze behaviour, and this was associated with a reversal of the motor resonance response. In Study 4 we showed novice and skilled golfers videos of the golf swing and of a reach-grasp-lift action. The results revealed that, for both actions, the extent of motor resonance was related to the location of participants’ fixations. The present work provides the first evidence of a relationship between gaze and motor resonance and highlights the importance of appropriate gaze behaviour for observational learning.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
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Dept of Life Sciences Theses

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