The unique ability to learn transformed or altered visuo-motor relationships during motor learning (visuo-motor transformation learning) has engaged researchers for over a century. Compared to other forms of motor learning (e.g., sequence learning), little is known about plasticity in the cortical and/or subcortical systems involved. We used fMRI to isolate region-specific activation changes during the learning of a visuo-motor (joystick) task under a simple transformation (90 degree rotation of visual feedback). Distributed brain systems were engaged in the learning process. In particular, we found evidence of a learning-dependent transition from early activation of the posterior parietal cortex to later distributed cortico-subcortical-cerebellar responses (in the temporal and occipital cortices, basal ganglia, cerebellum and thalamus). The role of the posterior parietal cortex may relate specifically to the acquisition of the transformation, while that of the fusiform and superior temporal gyri may reflect higher level visual and visuo-spatial processing underlying consolidation. Learning-related increases in cerebellar responses are consistent with its proposed role in the acquisition of internal models of the motor apparatus. These learning-related changes suggest a role for interacting neural systems involving the co-operation of cortico-cortico, cortico-cerebellar and cortico-basal ganglia loops during visuo-motor transformation learning.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we explore how the time scale of practice affects patterns of brain activity associated with motor skill acquisition. Fifty-eight studies that involved skill learning with healthy participants (117 contrasts) met inclusion criteria. Two meta-contrasts were coded: decreases: peak coordinates that showed decreases in brain activity over time; increases: peak coordinates that showed increases in activity over time. Studies were grouped by practice time scale: short (≤1 hrs; 25 studies), medium (>1 and ≤24 hrs; 18 studies), and long (>24 hrs to 5 weeks; 17 studies). Coordinates were analyzed using Activation Likelihood Estimation to show brain areas that were consistently activated for each contrast. Across time scales, consistent decreases in activity were shown in prefrontal and premotor cortex, the inferior parietal lobules, and the cerebellar cortex. Across the short and medium time scales there were consistent increases in supplementary and primary motor cortex and dentate nucleus. At the long time scale, increases were seen in posterior cingulate gyrus, primary motor cortex, putamen, and globus pallidus. Comparisons between time scales showed that increased activity in M1 at medium time scales was more spatially consistent across studies than increased activity in M1 at long time scales. Further, activity in the striatum (viz. putamen and globus pallidus) was consistently more rostral in the medium time scale and consistently more caudal in the long time scale. These data support neurophysiological models that posit that both a cortico-cerebellar system and a cortico-striatal system are active, but at different time points, during motor learning, and suggest there are associative/premotor and sensorimotor networks active within each system.
"Importantly, by employing an alternative neuroimaging methodology, the present findings confirm and extend those from previous EEG and fMRI studies that revealed an increased role of frontal and prefrontal (dorsolateral, ventral) regions during early compared to late visuomotor adaptation and particularly underscore the role of the frontal executive (inhibitory, updating functions) when a new visuomotor transformation is being encoded (e.g., Shadmehr and Holcomb, 1997, 1999; Ghilardi et al., 2000; Graydon et al., 2005; Lacourse et al., 2005; Anguera et al., 2007; Gentili et al., 2010a, 2011). In a previous study, Gentili et al. (2011) analyzed EEG and kinematics using exactly the same visuomotor task including a learning group where participants had to adapt to a new visuomotor transformation and a control group who performed the same visuomotor task without any perturbation. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study investigated changes in brain hemodynamics, as measured by functional near infrared spectroscopy, during performance of a cognitive-motor adaptation task. The adaptation task involved the learning of a novel visuomotor transformation (a 60° counterclockwise screen-cursor rotation), which required inhibition of a prepotent visuomotor response. A control group experienced a familiar transformation and thus, did not face any executive challenge. Analysis of the experimental group hemodynamic responses revealed that the performance enhancement was associated with a monotonic reduction in the oxygenation level in the prefrontal cortex. This finding confirms and extends functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography studies of visuomotor adaptation and learning. The changes in prefrontal brain activation suggest an initial recruitment of frontal executive functioning to inhibit prepotent visuomotor mappings followed by a progressive de-recruitment of the same prefrontal regions. The prefrontal hemodynamic changes observed in the experimental group translated into enhanced motor performance revealed by a reduction in movement time, movement extent, root mean square error and the directional error. These kinematic adaptations are consistent with the acquisition of an internal model of the novel visuomotor transformation. No comparable change was observed in the control group for either the hemodynamics or for the kinematics. This study (1) extends our understanding of the frontal executive processes from the cognitive to the cognitive-motor domain and (2) suggests that optical brain imaging can be employed to provide hemodynamic based-biomarkers to assess and monitor the level of adaptive cognitive-motor performance.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 07/2013; 7:277. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00277 · 2.99 Impact Factor
"The primary goal of this research was to determine brain regions underlying dynamic visuomotor representational transformations of the type necessary for remote operation of a vehicle or object. Unlike other experiments , , , , ,  in which the visuomotor representational transformation to be learned is fixed (e.g. 90° rotation of visual feedback of joystick movement), in this experiment the degree of transformation is dynamically changing with the orientation of the plane (object). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Brain regions involved with processing dynamic visuomotor representational transformation are investigated using fMRI. The perceptual-motor task involved flying (or observing) a plane through a simulated Red Bull Air Race course in first person and third person chase perspective. The third person perspective is akin to remote operation of a vehicle. The ability for humans to remotely operate vehicles likely has its roots in neural processes related to imitation in which visuomotor transformation is necessary to interpret the action goals in an egocentric manner suitable for execution. In this experiment for 3(rd) person perspective the visuomotor transformation is dynamically changing in accordance to the orientation of the plane. It was predicted that 3(rd) person remote flying, over 1(st), would utilize brain regions composing the 'Mirror Neuron' system that is thought to be intimately involved with imitation for both execution and observation tasks. Consistent with this prediction differential brain activity was present for 3(rd) person over 1(st) person perspectives for both execution and observation tasks in left ventral premotor cortex, right dorsal premotor cortex, and inferior parietal lobule bilaterally (Mirror Neuron System) (Behaviorally: 1(st)>3(rd)). These regions additionally showed greater activity for flying (execution) over watching (observation) conditions. Even though visual and motor aspects of the tasks were controlled for, differential activity was also found in brain regions involved with tool use, motion perception, and body perspective including left cerebellum, temporo-occipital regions, lateral occipital cortex, medial temporal region, and extrastriate body area. This experiment successfully demonstrates that a complex perceptual motor real-world task can be utilized to investigate visuomotor processing. This approach (Aviation Cerebral Experimental Sciences ACES) focusing on direct application to lab and field is in contrast to standard methodology in which tasks and conditions are reduced to their simplest forms that are remote from daily life experience.
PLoS ONE 04/2012; 7(4):e33873. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0033873 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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