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Exp Brain Res. 1994;98(3):523-34.

Inter-subject variability of cerebral activations in acquiring a motor skill: a study with positron emission tomography.

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Department of Neurology, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldof, Germany.


Cerebral structures activated during sequential right-hand finger movements were mapped with regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) measurements by positron emission tomography (PET) in individual subjects. Nine healthy volunteers were examined twice; after initial learning and after practicing the finger movement sequence for more than 1 h. Task-specific activation sites were identified by statistical distributions of maximal activity and region size in rCBF subtraction images. A consistent task-specific activation in all nine subjects was detected in the contralateral sensorimotor cortex at an average movement rate of 3.2 Hz reached after practice. This corresponded to a significant increase of the mean rCBF in the left primary sensorimotor cortex in spatially standardised and averaged PET images. Additional task-specific activation sites detected by individual analysis were found in the lateral and medial premotor, parietal, and cingulate areas, and in subcortical structures including the basal ganglia of both cerebral hemispheres. These activations showed no or little spatial overlap from subject to subject, thus being obscured in the analysis of pooled data. The observed activity patterns were related to movement rate and accuracy in individual subjects. It is suggested that the rCBF changes associated with acquisition of a motor skill in individual humans may correspond to plasticity of sensorimotor representations reported in monkeys.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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