A critical re-evaluation of fmri signatures of motor sequence learning
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© Berlot et al. Despite numerous studies, there is little agreement about what brain changes accompany motor sequence learning, partly because of a general publication bias that favors novel results. We therefore decided to systematically reinvestigate proposed functional magnetic resonance imaging correlates of motor learning in a preregistered longitudinal study with four scanning sessions over 5 weeks of training. Activation decreased more for trained than untrained sequences in premotor and parietal areas, without any evidence of learning-related activation increases. Premotor and parietal regions also exhibited changes in the fine-grained, sequence-specific activation patterns early in learning, which stabilized later. No changes were observed in the primary motor cortex (M1). Overall, our study provides evidence that human motor sequence learning occurs outside of M1. Furthermore, it shows that we cannot expect to find activity increases as an indicator for learning, making subtle changes in activity patterns across weeks the most promising fMRI correlate of training-induced plasticity.