Changes in prefrontal cortical behaviour depend upon familiarity on a bimanual co-ordination task: an fNIRS study

Neuroimage. 2008 Jan 15;39(2):805-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.09.032. Epub 2007 Oct 25.


To investigate neurocognitive mechanisms associated with task-related expertise development, this paper investigates serial changes in prefrontal activation patterns using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). We evaluate cortical function in 62 healthy subjects with varying experience during serial evaluations of a knot-tying task. All tasks were performed bimanually and self paced, with fixed episodes of motor rest for five repetitions. Improvements in technical skill were evaluated using dexterity indices to quantify time, total movements and pathlength required to complete trials. Significant improvements in technical skills were observed in novices between the 2nd and 3rd trials, associated with increasing task familiarity. In trained subjects, minimal fluctuation in task-related oxyhaemoglobin (HbO(2)) and deoxyhaemoglobin (HHb) changes were observed in association with more stable task performance. In contrast, two significant transitions in prefrontal haemodynamic change were observed in novices. Greater task-related increases in HbO(2) and decreases in HHb were identified on the second trial compared to the first. Relative decreases in HbO(2) and increases in HHb change were observed between the third and fourth, and fourth and fifth trials respectively. These data suggest that prefrontal processing across five knot-tying trials is influenced by the level of experience on a task. Modifications in prefrontal activation appear to confer technical performance adaptation in novices.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared


  • Hemoglobins