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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2002 Nov;78(3):553-64.

Imaging brain plasticity during motor skill learning.

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Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The search for the neural substrates mediating the incremental acquisition of skilled motor behaviors has been the focus of a large body of animal and human studies in the past decade. Much less is known, however, with regard to the dynamic neural changes that occur in the motor system during the different phases of learning. In this paper, we review recent findings, mainly from our own work using fMRI, which suggest that: (i) the learning of sequential finger movements produces a slowly evolving reorganization within primary motor cortex (M1) over the course of weeks and (ii) this change in M1 follows more dynamic, rapid changes in the cerebellum, striatum, and other motor-related cortical areas over the course of days. We also briefly review neurophysiological and psychophysical evidence for the consolidation of motor skills, and we propose a working hypothesis of its underlying neural substrate in motor sequence learning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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