International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Open Access

ISSN: 2329-9096

+44 1300 500008


Reduction in Cortical Activation in the Sensorimotor Cortex during Motor Skill Learning of a Pursuit Rotor Task: A Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study

Daisuke Hirano, Yuki Seki, Fubiao Huang and Takamichi Taniguchi

To investigate the cerebral mechanisms underlying learning of motor skills, we assessed serial changes of brain activation patterns during a pursuit rotor (PR) task in 12 right-handed healthy subjects using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The subjects performed the task with their right hand for 15-s, alternated with a 30-s rest period, for 18 repetitions (cycles 1 to 18). Gains in motor skill were evaluated by recording the time for which the stylus remained on the target. Performance improved with repetition of the task. Task-related increases of oxygenated hemoglobin (oxy-Hb) were observed around the predicted location of the sensorimotor cortices on both hemispheres. The increased oxy-Hb levels appeared to reduce with repetition of the task in the channels covering the left sensorimotor area. Furthermore, there was a significant correlation between PR task performance gain and the oxy-Hb signal in the left and right sensorimotor areas. Our results suggest that cortical activation in the sensorimotor cortex reflects changes in a number of factors including sensory feedback processing, correct motor commands, and perceptual or cognitive function during learning of a PR task. Therefore, changes in contralateral sensorimotor cortical activation may serve as a motor sequence learning biomarker for rehabilitation purposes or the prediction of recovery.