The role of arousal in the preparation for voluntary movement

Marta Bortoletto, Marianna J. Lemonis, Ross Cunnington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Planning and readiness for action are associated with pre-movement brain activity reflected in the readiness potential (RP). Previous research suggests that RP is affected by higher-order cognitive functions. The present study investigated the relationship between arousal and RP. Twenty participants performed a RP paradigm in which they executed self-paced movements approximately every 4-5. s. Participants' arousal level was directly manipulated through interaction with the experimenter during the rest breaks preceding the movement task. Skin conductance level (SCL) differed between arousal conditions, indicating that the arousal manipulation was effective. RP was significantly higher under the low arousal than the high arousal condition. This arousal effect also changed depending on whether RP was measured at overall high or low levels of arousal. Our data indicate that arousal does not directly activate structures underlying action preparation. We suggest that the arousal effect may be mediated by the attentional resources allocated to the movement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-378
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Arousal
  • Motor preparation
  • Movement-related potentials
  • Readiness potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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