Sunday, December 19, 2010

Piper's Pursuit Rotor Norm Study

Figure from Piper (2010) data on PEBL Pursuit Rotor task. 
Brian Piper from OHSU has just published a norm study on adolescents performing of the PEBL Pursuit Rotor task, called Age, handedness, and sex contribute to fine motor behavior in children.  As I've blogged about before, the Pursuit Rotor task has been used in mechanical form for sixty years, and the PEBL version attempts to be similar to it, but differs in a few important ways.   The size on screen is about the same, but in the traditional task you use a stylus and the target moves quickly; on the computer, you use a mouse and it moves more slowly.  Also, people have a lot of familiarity with computer mice nowadays, which might impact the automaticity path seen in the traditional tasks.

There are two really cool parts of this study.  First, the data were collected at a middle-school health fair, which is ingenious (that's the kind of researcher Brian is).   Next, along with some pretty solid norms, there was this cool result (shown in the figure), looking at time-on-target (out of 15000 ms) with respect to handedness by hand.  Here, a larger value is better; open circles are left-handers.  Right-handers did much better with their right hands than with their left hands (as might be expected), but lefties were (1) about the same with both hands, and (2) worse than righties on their dominant hand, but better on their non-dominant hand.  Does this happen with adults who didn't grow up using mice?  Will this persist when these kids become adults?  Does it stem from the lefties having to be ambidextrous with mice so frequently?  It suggests some interesting questions.

Brian used close to the standard version of the PEBL Pursuit Rotor distributed in the PEBL test battery, but with a few tweaks for instructions.  I may distribute that version in place of or along with the current version  in the next release of the test battery.  Until then, contact him to get a copy of the paper or to use the test he used here.

The paper is still in press, but it currently can be referenced as:
Piper, B. J. (2010). Age, handedness, and sex contribute to fine motor behavior in children. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.11.018 
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