Evaluation of principles of motor learning in speech and non-speech-motor learning tasks
Thesis DisciplineSpeech and Language Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Principles of motor learning (PMLs) refer to a set of concepts which are considered to facilitate the process of motor learning. PMLs can be broadly grouped into principles based on (1) the structure of practice/treatment, and (2) the nature of feedback provided during practice/treatment. Application of PMLs is most evident in studies involving non-speech- motor tasks (e.g., limb movement). However, only a few studies have investigated the application of PMLs in speech-motor tasks. Previous studies relating to speech-motor function have highlighted two primary limitations: (1) Failure to consider whether various PMLs contribute equally to learning in both non-speech and speech-motor tasks, (2) Failure to consider whether PMLs can be effective in a clinical cohort in comparison to a healthy group. The present research was designed to shed light on whether selected PMLs can indeed facilitate learning in both non-speech and speech-motor tasks and also to examine their efficacy in a clinical group with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in comparison to a healthy group. Eighty healthy subjects with no history of sensory, cognitive, or neurological abnormalities, ranging 40-80 years of age, and 16 patients with PD, ranging 58-78 years of age, were recruited as participants for the current study. Four practice conditions and one feedback condition were considered in the training of a speech-motor task and a non-speech- motor task. The four practice conditions were (1) constant practice, (2) variable practice, (3) blocked practice, and (4) random practice. The feedback was a combination of low-frequency, knowledge of results, knowledge of performance, and delayed feedback conditions, and was paired with each of the four practice conditions. The participants in the clinical and non-clinical groups were required to practise a speech and a non-speech-motor learning task. Each participant was randomly and equally assigned to one of the four practice groups. The speech-motor task involved production of a meaningless and temporally modified phrase, and the non-speech-motor task involved practising a 12-note musical sequence using a portable piano keyboard. Each participant was seen on three consecutive days: the first two days served as the acquisition phase and the third day was the retention phase. During the acquisition phase, the participants practised 50 trials of the speech phrase and another 50 trials of the musical tune each day, and each session lasted for 60-90 min. Performance on the speech and non-speech tasks was preceded by an orthographic model of the target phrase/musical sequence displayed on a computer monitor along with an auditory model. The participants were instructed to match their performance to the target phrase/musical sequence exactly. Feedback on performance was provided after every 10th trial. The nature of practice differed among the four practice groups. The participants returned on the third day for the retention phase and produced 10 trials of the target phrase and another 10 trials of the musical sequence. Feedback was not provided during or after the retention trials. These final trials were recorded for later acoustic analyses. The analyses focused on spatial and temporal parameters of the speech and non-speech tasks. Spatial analysis involved evaluating the production accuracy of target phrase/tune by calculating the percentage of phonemes/keystrokes correct (PPC/PKC). The temporal analysis involved calculating the temporal synchrony of the participant productions (speech phrase & tune) during the retention trials with the target phrase and tune, respectively, through the phi correlation. The PPC/PKC and phi correlation values were subjected to a series of mixed model ANOVAs. In the healthy subjects, the results of the spatial learning revealed that the participants learned the speech task better than the non-speech (keyboard) task. In terms of temporal learning, there was no difference in learning between the speech and non-speech tasks. On an overall note, the participants performed better on the spatial domain, rather than on the temporal domain, indicating a spatial-temporal trade-off. Across spatial as well as temporal learning, participants in the constant practice condition learned the speech and non-speech tasks better than participants in the other practice conditions. Another interesting finding was that there was an age effect, with the younger participants demonstrating superior spatial and temporal learning to that of the older participants, except for temporal learning on the keyboard task for which there was no difference. In contrast, the PD group showed no significant differences on spatial or temporal learning between any of the four practice conditions. Furthermore, although the PD patients had poorer performances than the healthy subjects on both the speech and keyboard tasks, they showed very similar pattern of learning across all four practice conditions to that of the healthy subjects. The findings in the current study tend to have potential applications in speech-language therapy, and are as follows: (1) a constant practice regime could be beneficial in developing speech therapy protocols to treat motor-based communication disorders (e.g., dysarthria), (2) speech therapists need to exercise caution in designing speech therapy goals incorporating similar PMLs for younger and older adults, as the application of similar PMLs in younger and older adults may bring about different learning outcomes, (3) and finally, it could be beneficial for patients to practise speech tasks which would require them to focus either on the spatial or temporal aspect, rather than focussing on both the aspects simultaneously.