Replay of Learned Neural Firing Sequences during Rest in Human Motor Cortex

Cell Rep. 2020 May 5;31(5):107581. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107581.


The offline "replay" of neural firing patterns underlying waking experience, previously observed in non-human animals, is thought to be a mechanism for memory consolidation. Here, we test for replay in the human brain by recording spiking activity from the motor cortex of two participants who had intracortical microelectrode arrays placed chronically as part of a brain-computer interface pilot clinical trial. Participants took a nap before and after playing a neurally controlled sequence-copying game that consists of many repetitions of one "repeated" sequence sparsely interleaved with varying "control" sequences. Both participants performed repeated sequences more accurately than control sequences, consistent with learning. We compare the firing rate patterns that caused the cursor movements when performing each sequence to firing rate patterns throughout both rest periods. Correlations with repeated sequences increase more from pre- to post-task rest than do correlations with control sequences, providing direct evidence of learning-related replay in the human brain.

Keywords: brain-computer interface; consolidation; human; learning; memory; microelectrode array; motor cortex; reactivation; replay; sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Wakefulness / physiology