Striatal recruitment during an implicit sequence learning task as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging

Hum Brain Mapp. 1997;5(2):124-32.


Prior research has repeatedly implicated the striatum in implicit sequence learning; however, imaging findings have been inconclusive with respect to the sub-territories and laterality involved. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we studied brain activation profiles associated with performance of the serial reaction time task (SRT) in 10 normal right-handed males. Behavioral results indicate that significant implicit learning occurred, uncontaminated by significant explicit knowledge. Concatenated fMRI data from the entire cohort revealed significant right-lateralized activation in both the caudate and putamen. Analysis of fMRI data from individual subjects showed inter-individual variability as to the precise territories involved, including right as well as left caudate and putamen. Interestingly, all seven subjects who manifested robust learning effects exhibited significant activation within the putamen. Moreover, among those seven subjects, the magnitude of signal intensity change within the putamen correlated significantly with the magnitude of reaction time advantage achieved. These findings demonstrate right-sided striatal activation across subjects during implicit sequence learning, but also highlight interindividual variability with respect to the laterality and striatal subterritories involved. In particular, results from individual subjects suggest that, during the SRT, the reaction time advantage garnered via implicit sequence learning might be predominantly associated with activity within the putamen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Reference Values