Differential recruitment of the sensorimotor putamen and frontoparietal cortex during motor chunking in humans

Motor chunking facilitates movement production by combining motor elements into integrated units of behavior. Previous research suggests that chunking involves two processes: concatenation, aimed at the formation of motor-motor associations between elements or sets of elements, and segmentation, aimed at the parsing of multiple contiguous elements into shorter action sets. We used fMRI to measure the trial-wise recruitment of brain regions associated with these chunking processes as healthy subjects performed a cued-sequence production task. A dynamic network analysis identified chunking structure for a set of motor sequences acquired during fMRI and collected over 3 days of training. Activity in the bilateral sensorimotor putamen positively correlated with chunk concatenation, whereas a left-hemisphere frontoparietal network was correlated with chunk segmentation. Across subjects, there was an aggregate increase in chunk strength (concatenation) with training, suggesting that subcortical circuits play a direct role in the creation of fluid transitions across chunks.

N. Wymbs, D. Bassett, P. Mucha, M. Porter, and S. Grafton
Neuron
Volume: 75
Number: 5
Pages: 936–946
Date: June, 2012
ICB Affiliated Authors: Jean M Carlson, Scott T Grafton