To explore the effects of practice we scanned participants with fMRI while they were performing four-key unfamiliar and familiar sequences, and compared the associated activities relative to simple control sequences. On the basis of a recent cognitive model of sequential motor behavior (C-SMB), we propose that the observed neural activity would be associated with three functional networks that can operate in parallel and that allow (a) responding to stimuli in a reaction mode, (b) sequence execution using spatial sequence representations in a central-symbolic mode, and (c) sequence execution using motor chunk representations in a chunking mode. On the basis of this model and findings in the literature, we predicted which neural areas would be active during execution of the unfamiliar and familiar keying sequences. The observed neural activities were largely in line with our predictions, and allowed functions to be attributed to the active brain areas that fit the three above functional systems. The results corroborate C-SMB’s assumption that at advanced skill levels the systems executing motor chunks and translating key-specific stimuli are racing to trigger individual responses. They further support recent behavioral indications that spatial sequence representations continue to be used.
- Execution modes
- Sequence learning
- Discrete sequence production task