An FMRI study of the role of the medial temporal lobe in implicit and explicit sequence learning

Neuron. 2003 Mar 27;37(6):1013-25. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(03)00123-5.


fMRI was used to investigate the neural substrates supporting implicit and explicit sequence learning, focusing especially upon the role of the medial temporal lobe. Participants performed a serial reaction time task (SRTT). For implicit learning, they were naive about a repeating pattern, whereas for explicit learning, participants memorized another repeating sequence. fMRI analyses comparing repeating versus random sequence blocks demonstrated activation of frontal, parietal, cingulate, and striatal regions implicated in previous SRTT studies. Importantly, mediotemporal lobe regions were active in both explicit and implicit SRTT learning. Moreover, the results provide evidence of a role for the hippocampus and related cortices in the formation of higher order associations under both implicit and explicit learning conditions, regardless of conscious awareness of sequence knowledge.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Mathematics
  • Memory / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*