Research Report

Cognitive Processing

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 89-94

First online:

The supplementary motor area in motor and perceptual time processing: fMRI studies

  • Françoise MacarAffiliated withFrançoise Macar - LNC, CNRS-Université de Provence, Centre St-Charles, Case C. Email author 
  • , Jennifer CoullAffiliated withFrançoise Macar - LNC, CNRS-Université de Provence, Centre St-Charles, Case C.
  • , Franck VidalAffiliated withIMNSSA

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The neural bases of timing mechanisms in the second-to-minute range are currently investigated using multidisciplinary approaches. This paper documents the involvement of the supplementary motor area (SMA) in the encoding of target durations by reporting convergent fMRI data from motor and perceptual timing tasks. Event-related fMRI was used in two temporal procedures, involving (1) the production of an accurate interval as compared to an accurate force, and (2) a dual-task of time and colour discrimination with parametric manipulation of the level of attention attributed to each parameter. The first study revealed greater activation of the SMA proper in skilful control of time compared to force. The second showed that increasing attentional allocation to time increased activity in a cortico-striatal network including the pre-SMA (in contrast with the occipital cortex for increasing attention to colour). Further, the SMA proper was sensitive to the attentional modulation cued prior to the time processing period. Taken together, these data and related literature suggest that the SMA plays a key role in time processing as part of the striato-cortical pathway previously identified by animal studies, human neuropsychology and neuroimaging.


Motor and perceptual timing Supplementary motor area (SMA) Event-related fIRM