Human motor sequence learning drives transient changes in network topology and hippocampal connectivity early during memory consolidation

Cereb Cortex. 2022 Dec 30;bhac489. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhac489. Online ahead of print.


In the last decade, the exclusive role of the hippocampus in human declarative learning has been challenged. Recently, we have shown that gains in performance observed in motor sequence learning (MSL) during the quiet rest periods interleaved with practice are associated with increased hippocampal activity, suggesting a role of this structure in motor memory reactivation. Yet, skill also develops offline as memory stabilizes after training and overnight. To examine whether the hippocampus contributes to motor sequence memory consolidation, here we used a network neuroscience strategy to track its functional connectivity offline 30 min and 24 h post learning using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Using a graph-analytical approach we found that MSL transiently increased network modularity, reflected in an increment in local information processing at 30 min that returned to baseline at 24 h. Within the same time window, MSL decreased the connectivity of a hippocampal-sensorimotor network, and increased the connectivity of a striatal-premotor network in an antagonistic manner. Finally, a supervised classification identified a low-dimensional pattern of hippocampal connectivity that discriminated between control and MSL data with high accuracy. The fact that changes in hippocampal connectivity were detected shortly after training supports a relevant role of the hippocampus in early stages of motor memory consolidation.

Keywords: consolidation; functional connectivity; graph-theory; machine learning; motor sequence learning.