Deficit in Complex Sequence Processing after a Virtual Lesion of Left BA45Report as inadecuate

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Although the contribution of Broca-s area to motor cognition is generally accepted, its exact role remains controversial. A previous functional imaging study has suggested that Broca-s area implements hierarchically organised motor behaviours and, in particular, that its anterior Brodmann area 45, BA45 and posterior BA44 parts process, respectively, higher and lower-level hierarchical elements. This function of Broca-s area could generalize to other cognitive functions, including language. However, because of the correlative nature of functional imaging data, the causal relationship between Broca-s region activation and its behavioural significance cannot be ascertained. To circumvent this limitation, we used on-line repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to disrupt neuronal processing in left BA45, left BA44 or left dorsal premotor cortex, three areas that have been shown to exhibit a phasic activation when participants performed hierarchically organised motor behaviours. The experiment was conducted in healthy volunteers performing the same two key-press sequences as those used in a previous imaging study, and which differed in terms of hierarchical organisation. The performance of the lower-order hierarchical task Experiment #1 was unaffected by magnetic stimulation. In contrast, in the higher-order hierarchical task Experiment #2 -superordinate- task, we found that a virtual lesion of the anterior part of Broca-s area left BA45 delayed the processing of the cue initiating the sequence in an effector-independent way. Interestingly, in this task, the initiation cue only informed the subjects about the rules to be applied to produce the appropriate response but did not allow them to anticipate the entire motor sequence. A second important finding was a RT decrease following left PMd virtual lesions in the superordinate task, a result compatible with the view that PMd plays a critical role in impulse control. The present study therefore demonstrates the role of left BA45 in planning the higher-order hierarchical levels of motor sequences.

Author: Emeline Clerget, Michael Andres, Etienne Olivier



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