Neuronal Modifications During Visuomotor Association Learning Assessed by Electric Brain Tomography

Praeg, Elke ; Esslen, Michaela ; Lutz, Kai ; Jancke, Lutz

In: Brain Topography, 2006, vol. 19, no. 1-2, p. 61-75

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    Summary: In everyday life specific situations need specific reactions. Through repetitive practice, such stimulus-response associations can be learned and performed automatically. The aim of the present EEG study was the illustration of learning dependent modifications in neuronal pathways during short-term practice of visuomotor associations. Participants performed a visuomotor association task including four visual stimuli, which should be associated with four keys, learned by trial and error. We assumed that distinct cognitive processes might be dominant during early learning e.g., visual perception and decision making. Advanced learning, however, might be indicated by increased neuronal activation in integration- and memory-related regions. For assessment of learning progress, visual- and movement-related brain potentials were measured and compared between three learning stages (early, intermediate, and late). The results have revealed significant differences between the learning stages during distinct time intervals. Related to visual stimulus presentation, Low Resolution Electromagnetic Brain Tomography (LORETA) revealed strong neuronal activation in a parieto-prefrontal network in time intervals between 100-400 ms post event and during early learning. In relation to the motor response neuronal activation was significantly increased during intermediate compared to early learning. Prior to the motor response (120-360 ms pre event), neuronal activation was detected in the cingulate motor area and the right dorsal premotor cortex. Subsequent to the motor response (68-430 ms post event) there was an increase in neuronal activation in visuomotor- and memory-related areas including parietal cortex, SMA, premotor, dorsolateral prefrontal, and parahippocampal cortex. The present study has shown specific time elements of a visuomotor-memory-related network, which might support learning progress during visuomotor association learning