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Cereb Cortex. 2007 Dec;17(12):2972-9. Epub 2007 Mar 26.

On the programming and reprogramming of actions.

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  • 1F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Actions are often selected in the context of ongoing movement plans. Most studies of action selection have overlooked this fact, implicitly assuming that the motor system is passive prior to presentation of instructions triggering movement selection. Other studies addressed action planning in the context of an already present motor plan, but focused mostly on inhibition of a prepotent response under fierce time pressure. Under these circumstances, inhibition of previous motor plans and selection of a new response become temporally intermingled. Here, we explore how the presence of earlier motor plans influences cerebral effects associated with action selection, separating in time movement programming, reprogramming, and execution. We show that portions of parietofrontal circuits, including intraparietal sulcus and left dorsal premotor cortex, are systematically involved in programming motor responses, their activity being indifferent to the presence of earlier motor plans. We identify additional regions recruited when a motor response is programmed in the context of an existing motor program. We found that several right-hemisphere regions, previously associated with response inhibition, might be better characterized as involved in response selection. Finally, we detail the specific role of a right precentral region in movement reprogramming that is involved in inhibiting not only actual responses but also motor representations.

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