Cognitive control affects motor learning through local variations in GABA within the primary motor cortex

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 17;11(1):18566. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97974-1.


The primary motor cortex (M1) is crucial for motor learning; however, its interaction with other brain areas during motor learning remains unclear. We hypothesized that the fronto-parietal execution network (FPN) provides learning-related information critical for the flexible cognitive control that is required for practice. We assessed network-level changes during sequential finger tapping learning under speed pressure by combining magnetic resonance spectroscopy and task and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. There was a motor learning-related increase in preparatory activity in the fronto-parietal regions, including the right M1, overlapping the FPN and sensorimotor network (SMN). Learning-related increases in M1-seeded functional connectivity with the FPN, but not the SMN, were associated with decreased GABA/glutamate ratio in the M1, which were more prominent in the parietal than the frontal region. A decrease in the GABA/glutamate ratio in the right M1 was positively correlated with improvements in task performance (p = 0.042). Our findings indicate that motor learning driven by cognitive control is associated with local variations in the GABA/glutamate ratio in the M1 that reflects remote connectivity with the FPN, representing network-level motor sequence learning formations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Skills*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid