Implicit oculomotor sequence learning in humans: Time course of offline processing

Brain Res. 2006 May 23;1090(1):163-71. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.03.076. Epub 2006 May 4.


Studies of manual and digital sequence learning indicate that motor memories continue to be processed after training has ended, following a succession of identifiable steps. However, it is not known whether this offline memory processing constitutes a basic feature of motor learning and generalizes to the implicit learning of a sequence of eye movements. To assess this hypothesis, we have created the serial oculomotor reaction time task (SORT). Participants were trained to the SORT then tested after either 30 min, 5 h or 24 h. During training, ocular reaction times decreased monotonically over practice of a repeated sequence, then increased when a different sequence was displayed, demonstrating oculomotor learning of the trained sequence. When tested 30 min after training, a significant gain in oculomotor performance was observed irrespective of the sequence learning. This gain was no longer present after 5 h. Remarkably, a gain in performance specific to the learned sequence emerged only 24 h after training. After testing, a generation task confirmed that most subjects learned implicitly the regularities of the sequence. Our results show that, as for manual or digital sequences, oculomotor sequences can be implicitly learned. The offline processing of oculomotor memories follows distinct stages in a way similar to those observed after manual or digital sequence learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oculomotor Muscles / innervation
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Teaching
  • Time Factors