, Volume 146, Issue 3, pp 369-378
Date: 24 Aug 2002

Motor sequence learning with the nondominant left hand

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Whereas the human right hemisphere is active during execution of contralateral hand movements, the left hemisphere is engaged for both contra- and ipsilateral movements, at least for right-handed subjects. Whether this asymmetry is also found during motor learning remains unknown. Implicit sequence learning by the nondominant left hand was examined with the serial reaction time (SRT) task during functional brain imaging. As learning progressed, increases in brain activity were observed in left lateral premotor cortex (PMC) and bilaterally in supplementary motor areas (SMA), with the increase significantly greater in the left hemisphere. The left SMA site was similar to one previously identified with right-hand learning, suggesting that this region is critical for representing a sequence independent of effector. Learning with the left hand also recruited a widespread set of temporal and frontal regions, suggesting that motor skill learning with the nondominant hand develops within both cognitive and motor-related functional networks. After skill acquisition, subjects performed the SRT task with their right hands, and sequence transfer was tested with the original and a mirror-ordered sequence. With the original sequence, the stimulus sequence and series of response locations remained unchanged, but the finger movements were different. With the mirror-ordered sequence, the response sequence involved finger movements homologous to those used during training. Performance of the original and mirror sequence by the right hand was significantly better than with random stimuli. Mirror transformation of the sequence by the right hand was associated with a marked increase in regional activity in the left motor cortex, consistent with a role for sequential transformation at this level of the motor output pathway.