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Practice makes perfect if you have a partner's touch, according to new study
Date:1/23/2014

People improve their performance more when they practise with a partner rather than on their own, according to a new study.

The research could ultimately help people rehabilitating from a stroke.

Scientists from Imperial College London and two Japanese institutions explored whether physical interaction improved the way people performed in a computer-based task where they were using a joystick-like device. They were connected by a virtual elastic band to the same type of device operated by another person, who was hidden from view.

Most of the participants were unaware that they were working with a partner, but in spite of this they subconsciously used information transmitted through their partner's touch to enhance their performance. Participants achieved noticeably better results in the task when working with a partner than they did working on their own.

The researchers are particularly interested in how their findings could help people performing exercises for rehabilitation, for example when recovering from stroke. Robots are increasingly used for such rehabilitation and physiotherapy and the researchers believe that these robots would be more effective if they could react to patients through touch in the same way that people do. The research could also help people practising sports or other physical activities.

Dr Etienne Burdet, co-author of the study from the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London, said: "They say it takes two to tango and it seems that for physical tasks, practising with a partner really does improve performance. Our study is helping us to understand how touch plays a vital and very subtle role in helping people to transmit information to one another. This was the case in our study even when people couldn't see their partner or feel their partner's skin."

In the study, the researchers discovered that where one person was physically connected to a partner when lea
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Contact: Colin Smith
cd.smith@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-46712
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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