Cognitive and neural foundations of discrete sequence skill: a TMS study

Marit F L Ruitenberg, Willem B Verwey, Dennis J L G Schutter, Elger L Abrahamse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Executing discrete movement sequences typically involves a shift with practice from a relatively slow, stimulus-based mode to a fast mode in which performance is based on retrieving and executing entire motor chunks. The dual processor model explains the performance of (skilled) discrete key-press sequences in terms of an interplay between a cognitive processor and a motor system. In the present study, we tested and confirmed the core assumptions of this model at the behavioral level. In addition, we explored the involvement of the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) in discrete sequence skill by applying inhibitory 20 min 1-Hz off-line repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Based on previous work, we predicted pre-SMA involvement in the selection/initiation of motor chunks, and this was confirmed by our results. The pre-SMA was further observed to be more involved in more complex than in simpler sequences, while no evidence was found for pre-SMA involvement in direct stimulus-response translations or associative learning processes. In conclusion, support is provided for the dual processor model, and for pre-SMA involvement in the initiation of motor chunks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-38
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition/physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality/physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex/physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance/physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult


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