Experts, but not novices, exhibit StartReact indicating experts use the reticulospinal system more than novices

Brandon M. Bartels, Maria Jose Quezada, Vengateswaran J. Ravichandran, Claire F. Honeycutt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Motor skill acquisition utilizes a wide array of neural structures; however, few articles evaluate how the relative contributions of these structures shift over the course of learning. Recent evidence from rodents and songbirds suggests there is a transfer from cortical to subcortical structures following intense, repetitive training. Evidence from humans indicate that the reticulospinal system is modulated over the course of skill acquisition and may be a subcortical facilitator of learning. The objective of this study was to evaluate how reticulospinal contributions are modulated by task expertise. Reticulospinal contributions were assessed using StartReact (SR). We hypothesized that expert typists would show SR during an individuated, keystroke task but SR would be absent in novices. Expert (75.2 ± 9.8 WPM) and novice typists (41.6 ± 8.2 WPM) were evaluated during an individuated, keystroke movements. In experts, SR was present but was absent in novices. Together, these results suggest that experts use reticulospinal contributions more for movement than novices indicating that the reticular formation becomes increasingly important for movement execution in highly trained, skilled tasks even those that require individuated movement of the fingers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of motor behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Motor learning
  • StartReact
  • startle
  • typing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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