Learning of Sequential Finger Movements in Man: A Combined Kinematic and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Study

Eur J Neurosci. 1992;4(2):154-165. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.1992.tb00862.x.


The cerebral structures participating in learning of a manual skill were mapped with regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) measurements and positron emission tomography in nine healthy volunteers. The task was a complicated right-hand finger movement sequence. The subjects were examined at three stages: during initial practice of the finger movement sequence, in an advanced stage of learning, and after they had learnt the finger movement sequence. Quantitative evaluation of video tapes and electromyographic records of the right forearm and hand muscles demonstrated that the finger movements significantly accelerated and became more regular. Significant mean rCBF increases were induced in the left motor hand area, the left premotor cortex, the left supplementary motor area, the left sensory hand area, the left supplementary sensory area and the right anterior lobe of the cerebellum. During the learning process significant depressions of the mean rCBF occurred bilaterally in the superior parietal lobule, the anterior parietal cortex and the pars triangularis of the right inferior frontal cortex. The mean rCBF increases in these structures during the initial stage of learning were related to somatosensory feedback processing and internal language for the guidance of the finger movements. These activations disappeared when the subjects had learnt the finger movement sequence. Conversely, the mean rCBF significantly rose during the course of learning in the midsector of the putamen and globus pallidus on the left side. It is suggested that during the learning phase of this movement sequence, the basal ganglia were critically involved in the establishment of the final motor programme.