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Role of the Striatum, Cerebellum, and Frontal Lobes in the Learning of a Visuomotor Sequence

Brain and Cognition
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/brcg.1997.0899
  • Design
  • Medicine


Abstract This study was designed to examine the role of the striatum, cerebellum, and frontal lobes in the implicit learning of a visuomotor sequence. The performance of patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD), with damage to the cerebellum, or with a circumscribed lesion to the frontal lobes was thus compared to that of separate groups of matched normal control subjects on an adapted version of the Repeated Sequence Test. This paradigm consists of a visual reaction-time task with a fixed embedded sequence of finger movements to be performed based on presentation of visual stimuli. Subjects received four blocks of trials (i.e., 40 presentations of a 10-item sequence) per day over 6 training days. Following the last experimental session, subjects were also given two tests measuring their declarative knowledge of the sequence. Only PD patients with a bilateral striatal-dysfunction or patients with lesions to the cerebellum failed to improve their performance in the last three training sessions, hence suggesting an impairment late in the acquisition process. Further analyses revealed that such impairment was mainly implicit in nature, and that it could not be ascribed to a general decline in cognitive functioning, to mood disturbances, or to the severity of the motor symptoms. By contrast, the level of declarative knowledge of the sequence did not differ between the three clinical groups and their respective groups of normal subjects. These findings suggest that, unlike declarative memory, the incremental acquisition of a new visuomotor skill depends upon the integrity of both the striatum and the cerebellum, but not of the frontal lobes.

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