Learning- and expectation-related changes in the human brain during motor learning

J Neurophysiol. 2000 Dec;84(6):3026-35. doi: 10.1152/jn.2000.84.6.3026.


We have studied a simple form of motor learning in the human brain so as to isolate activity related to motor learning and the prediction of sensory events. Whole-brain, event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to record activity during classical discriminative delay eyeblink conditioning. Auditory conditioned stimulus (CS+) trials were presented either with a corneal airpuff unconditioned stimulus (US, paired), or without a US (unpaired). Auditory CS- trials were never reinforced with a US. Trials were presented pseudorandomly, 66 times each. The subjects gradually produced conditioned responses to CS+ trials, while increasingly differentiating between CS+ and CS- trials. The increasing difference between hemodynamic responses for unpaired CS+ and for CS- trials evolved slowly during conditioning in the ipsilateral cerebellar cortex (Crus I/Lobule HVI), contralateral motor cortex and hippocampus. To localize changes that were related to sensory prediction, we compared trials on which the expected airpuff US failed to occur (Unpaired CS+) with trials on which it occurred as expected (Paired CS+). Error-related signals in the contralateral cerebellum and somatosensory cortex were seen to increase during learning as the sensory prediction became stronger. The changes seen in the ipsilateral cerebellar cortex may be due either to the violations of sensory predictions, or to learning-related increases in the excitability of cerebellar neurons to presentations of the CS+.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Eyelid / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hemodynamics
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology