While previous studies of human information rate focused primarily on discrete forced-choice tasks, we extend the scope of the investigation to the framework of sensorimotor tracking of continuous signals. We show how considering information transfer in this context sheds new light on the problem; crucially, such an analysis requires one to consider and carefully disentangle the effects due to real-time information processing of surprising inputs (feedback component) from the contribution to performance due to prediction (feedforward component). We argue that only the former constitutes a faithful representation of the true information processing rate. We provide information-theoretic measures which separately quantify these components and show that they correspond to a decomposition of the total information shared between target and tracking signals. We employ a linear quadratic regulator model to provide evidence for the validity of the measures, as well as of the estimator of visual-motor delay (VMD) from experimental data, instrumental to compute them in practice. On experimental tracking data, we show that the contribution of prediction as computed by the feedforward measure increases with the predictability of the signal, confirming previous findings. Importantly, we further find the feedback component to be modulated by task difficulty, with higher information transmission rates observed with noisier signals. Such opposite trends between feedback and feedforward point to a tradeoff of cognitive resources/effort and performance gain.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience