Human premotor areas parse sequences into their spatial and temporal features

Elife. 2014 Aug 12;3:e03043. doi: 10.7554/eLife.03043.


Skilled performance is characterized by precise and flexible control of movement sequences in space and time. Recent theories suggest that integrated spatio-temporal trajectories are generated by intrinsic dynamics of motor and premotor networks. This contrasts with behavioural advantages that emerge when a trained spatial or temporal feature of sequences is transferred to a new spatio-temporal combination arguing for independent neural representations of these sequence features. We used a new fMRI pattern classification approach to identify brain regions with independent vs integrated representations. A distinct regional dissociation within motor areas was revealed: whereas only the contralateral primary motor cortex exhibited unique patterns for each spatio-temporal sequence combination, bilateral premotor areas represented spatial and temporal features independently of each other. These findings advocate a unique function of higher motor areas for flexible recombination and efficient encoding of complex motor behaviours.

Keywords: fMRI; motor control; premotor cortex; primary motor cortex; skill representation; timing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*