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Neuron. 2019 Feb 5. pii: S0896-6273(19)30045-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.01.018. [Epub ahead of print]

Neural Competitive Queuing of Ordinal Structure Underlies Skilled Sequential Action.

Author information

1
School of Psychology and Bangor Imaging Unit, Bangor University, Bangor, Wales LL57 2AS, UK; Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AZ, UK. Electronic address: e.kornysheva@bangor.ac.uk.
2
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AZ, UK; Queen Square Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK.
3
Motor Control and Disorders Group, St George's University of London, London SW17 0RE, UK; Sobell Department for Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK.
4
Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, UK.
5
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London WC1N 3AZ, UK; Queen Square Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK; Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3AR, UK.

Abstract

Fluent retrieval and execution of movement sequences is essential for daily activities, but the neural mechanisms underlying sequence planning remain elusive. Here participants learned finger press sequences with different orders and timings and reproduced them in a magneto-encephalography (MEG) scanner. We classified the MEG patterns for each press in the sequence and examined pattern dynamics during preparation and production. Our results demonstrate the "competitive queuing" (CQ) of upcoming action representations, extending previous computational and non-human primate recording studies to non-invasive measures in humans. In addition, we show that CQ reflects an ordinal template that generalizes across specific motor actions at each position. Finally, we demonstrate that CQ predicts participants' production accuracy and originates from parahippocampal and cerebellar sources. These results suggest that the brain learns and controls multiple sequences by flexibly combining representations of specific actions and interval timing with high-level, parallel representations of sequence position.

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