Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Implicit motor learning tasks typically involve comparisons of subject responses during a sequence versus a random condition. In neuroimaging, brain regions that are correlated with a sequence are described, but the temporal relationship of sequence versus nonsequence conditions is often not explored. We present a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study describing activation related to sequential predictability in an implicit sensorimotor learning task and the history (context) dependence of these effects. Participants regarded four squares displayed horizontally across a screen and pressed a button when any one of the four targets was illuminated in a particular color. A repeating spatial sequence with varying levels of predictability was embedded within a random color presentation. Both the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (R DLPFC) and right caudate displayed a positive correlation to increasing predictability, whereas the left posterior parietal cortex (L PPC) displayed a negative correlation. However, the activation changes within the caudate were significant when transitioning from high predictability to low predictability but not for the reverse case, suggesting a sensitivity not only to predictability but to order effects as well. These results support the hypothesized relationship between basal ganglia and visuomotor sequential learning, but demonstrate the importance of context upon sequence learning.