A functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) examination of how self-initiated sequential movements become automatic


The neural mechanisms underlying movement automaticity have been investigated using PET and fMRI and more recently functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). As fNIRS is an emerging technique, the objective of the present study was to replicate the functional magnetic resonance imaging-related motor sequence findings as reported by Wu et al. (J Neurophysiol 91:1690–1698, https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.01052.2003, 2004) using fNIRS. Seventeen right-handed participants practiced self-initiated sequential finger movements of two lengths (4 and 12) until a level of automaticity was achieved. Automaticity was evaluated by performing a visual-letter-counting task concurrently with the sequential finger movements. Our data were unable to replicate the pre-to-post-practice decrease in cortical activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for both motor sequence tasks. The findings did reveal increased contribution from the right hemisphere following learning. The observed lateralization is suggestive of explicit learning and the involvement of working memory in motor sequence production.

Experimental Brain Research