Early, but not late visual distractors affect movement synchronization to a temporal-spatial visual cue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


The ease of synchronizing movements to a rhythmic cue is dependent on the modality of the cue presentation: timing accuracy is much higher when synchronizing with discrete auditory rhythms than an equivalent visual stimulus presented through flashes. However, timing accuracy is improved if the visual cue presents spatial as well as temporal information (e.g., a dot following an oscillatory trajectory). Similarly, when synchronizing with an auditory target metronome in the presence of a second visual distracting metronome, the distraction is stronger when the visual cue contains spatial-temporal information rather than temporal only. The present study investigates individuals’ ability to synchronize movements to a temporal-spatial visual cue in the presence of same-modality temporal-spatial distractors. Moreover, we investigated how increasing the number of distractor stimuli impacted on maintaining synchrony with the target cue. Participants made oscillatory vertical arm movements in time with a vertically oscillating white target dot centered on a large projection screen. The target dot was surrounded by 2, 8, or 14 distractor dots, which had an identical trajectory to the target but at a phase lead or lag of 0, 100, or 200 ms. We found participants’ timing performance was only affected in the phase-lead conditions and when there were large numbers of distractors present (8 and 14). This asymmetry suggests participants still rely on salient events in the stimulus trajectory to synchronize movements. Subsequently, distractions occurring in the window of attention surrounding those events have the maximum impact on timing performance.


Original languageEnglish
Article number866
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2015


  • sensorimotor synchronization, visual cues, movement timing, distractor cues