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.
Copyright © 2014, Kornysheva and Diedrichsen.