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J Neurosci. 2008 Sep 24;28(39):9664-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3416-08.2008.

Time-specific contribution of the supplementary motor area to intermanual transfer of procedural knowledge.

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Human Cortical Physiology Section and Stroke Neurorehabilitation Clinic, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke-National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1430, USA.


The supplementary motor area (SMA) makes a crucial contribution to intermanual transfer: the ability to use one hand to perform a skill practiced and learned with the other hand. However, the timing of this contribution relative to movement remains unknown. Here, 33 healthy volunteers performed a 12 item sequence in the serial reaction time task. During training, each participant responded to a sequence of visual cues presented at 1 Hz by pressing one of four keys with their right hand. The measure of intermanual transfer was response time (RT) during repetition of the trained sequence with the left hand, which was at rest during learning. Participants were divided into three groups, which did not differ in their learning rates or amounts. In two groups, 1 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation induced transient virtual lesions of the SMA during training, either 100 ms before each cue (the premovement group) or during each key press (the movement group). The third group received sham stimulation (the sham group). After training with the right hand, RTs for performance with the left (transfer) hand were longer for the premovement group than for the movement or sham groups. Thus, the most crucial contribution of SMA to intermanual transfer occurs in the interval between movements, when the memory of a previous movement plays a role in encoding specific sequences. These results provide insight into frontal lobe contributions to procedural knowledge.

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