StartReact is the ability of the startle reflex to involuntarily release a planned movement in the presence of a loud acoustic stimulus resulting in muscle activity patterns and kinematics that are tightly regulated and scaled with the intended action. Previous studies demonstrated startReact’s robustness during simple single-joint reaching tasks and found no difference between startReact and voluntary movements for movement kinematics and muscle activation patterns. However, startReact has not been evaluated during multi-joint reaching movements with multiple degrees of freedom. It is unclear if startReact would evoke accurate and precise multi-joint reaching movements in an unrestricted workspace. Furthermore, if tested more rigorously, multi-joint startReact movement kinematics and muscle activation patterns might not be truly equivalent despite showing no difference through traditional ANOVAs. A previous study found multi-joint startReact was possible during unrestricted elbow and shoulder movement when reaching to a forward target. Therefore, we hypothesized that startReact would evoke similar multi-joint reaching movements for movement accuracy and muscle activation patterns when compared to voluntary movements in a multi-directional workspace. Expanding upon the previous study, our study uses a larger workspace and fully evaluates movement kinematics and muscle activations patterns. Results confirmed our hypothesis and found startReact movements were readily evoked in all directions. StartReact responses presented stereotypically earlier muscle activation, but the relative timing of agonist/antagonist firing pairs between startReact and voluntary movements remained similar. Results demonstrate that startReact is robustly present and equivalent in multi-joint reaching tasks and has potential clinical use for evaluating healthy and impaired movement.
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