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Durham University



Publication details for Dr Jason Connolly

Copley-Mills, F., Connolly, J.D. & Cavina-Pratesi, C. (2016). Gender differences in non-standard mapping tasks: A kinematic study using pantomimed reach-to-grasp actions. Cortex 82: 244-254.

Author(s) from Durham


Comparison between real and pantomimed actions is used in neuroscience to dissociate stimulus-driven (real) as compared to internally driven (pantomimed) visuomotor transformations, with the goal of testing models of vision (Milner & Goodale, 1995) and diagnosing neuropsychological deficits (apraxia syndrome). Real actions refer to an overt movement directed toward a visible target whereas pantomimed actions refer to an overt movement directed either toward an object that is no longer available. Although similar, real and pantomimed actions differ in their kinematic parameters and in their neural substrates. Pantomimed-reach-to-grasp-actions show reduced reaching velocities, higher wrist movements, and reduced grip apertures. In addition, seminal neuropsychological studies and recent neuroimaging findings confirmed that real and pantomimed actions are underpinned by separate brain networks. Although previous literature suggests differences in the praxis system between males and females, no research to date has investigated whether or not gender differences exist in the context of real versus pantomimed reach-to-grasp actions. We asked ten male and ten female participants to perform real and pantomimed reach-to-grasp actions toward objects of different sizes, either with or without visual feedback. During pantomimed actions participants were required to pick up an imaginary object slightly offset relative to the location of the real one (which was in turn the target of the real reach-to-grasp actions). Results demonstrate a significant difference between the kinematic parameters recorded in male and female participants performing pantomimed, but not real reach-to-grasp tasks, depending on the availability of visual feedback. With no feedback both males and females showed smaller grip aperture, slower movement velocity and lower reach height. Crucially, these same differences were abolished when visual feedback was available in male, but not in female participants. Our results suggest that male and female participants should be evaluated separately in the clinical environment and in future research in the field.

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