Document Type


Publication Date



The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience





First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier



Copyright © 2019 the authors. As a sequence of movements is learned, serially ordered actions get bound together into sets to reduce computational complexity during planning and execution. Here, we investigated how actions become naturally bound over the course of learning and how this learning affects cortical representations of individual actions. Across 5 weeks of practice, neurologically healthy human subjects learned either a complex 32-item sequence of finger movements (trained group, n = 9; 3 female) or randomly ordered actions (control group, n = 9; 3 female). Over the course of practice, responses during sequence production in the trained group became temporally correlated, consistent with responses being bound together under a common command. These behavioral changes, however, did not coincide with plasticity in the multivariate representations of individual finger movements, assessed using fMRI, at any level of the cortical motor hierarchy. This suggests that the representations of individual actions remain stable, even as the execution of those same actions become bound together in the context of producing a well learned sequence.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Extended practice on motor sequences results in highly stereotyped movement patterns that bind successive movements together. This binding is critical for skilled motor performance, yet it is not currently understood how it is achieved in the brain. We examined how binding altered the patterns of activity associated with individual movements that make up the sequence. We found that fine finger control during sequence production involved correlated activity throughout multiple motor regions; however, we found no evidence for plasticity of the representations of elementary movements. This suggests that binding is associated with plasticity at a more abstract level of the motor hierarchy.


Copyright 2019 the Authors. This article is available to copy, distribute, or display under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY). This license allows data and text mining, use of figures in presentations, and posting the article online, provided that the original article is credited.

The article was originally published at:

Patrick Beukema, Jörn Diedrichsen, Timothy D. Verstynen. Binding During Sequence Learning Does Not Alter Cortical Representations of Individual Actions. Journal of Neuroscience 28 August 2019, 39 (35) 6968-6977; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2669-18.2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.