In the present study, brain activations were measured using positron emission tomography (PET) over the course of practice. Fourteen right-handed participants were scanned during six 1-min periods of practice tracing a cutout maze design with their eyes closed. Practice-related decreases were found in the right premotor and posterior parietal cortex and left cerebellum, increases in the supplementary motor area (SMA) and primary motor cortex. The decrease in right premotor activity and the increase in SMA was significantly correlated with a decrease in the number of stops, implying involvement in learning and storing the movement sequence. The significant correlation between decreases in errors and left cerebellar and right posterior parietal activity suggests a role in accuracy. Involvement of the primary motor cortex in motor execution is suggested by the correlation of increased activation and movement speed. These results suggest that different neural structures (involving a premotor-parietal-cerebellar circuit) play a role in a sequential maze learning task.
Van Mier is with the University of Maastricht, Faculty of Psychology, Neurocognition, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Perlmutter and Petersen are with the Washington University School of Medicine, Dept of Neurology, Radiology, and Anatomy and Neurobiology, St. Louis, MO.