Context-dependent motor skill: perceptual processing in memory-based sequence production

Marit F L Ruitenberg, Elger L Abrahamse, Elian De Kleine, Willem B Verwey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Previous studies have shown that motor sequencing skill can benefit from the reinstatement of the learning context-even with respect to features that are formally not required for appropriate task performance. The present study explored whether such context-dependence develops when sequence execution is fully memory-based-and thus no longer assisted by stimulus-response translations. Specifically, we aimed to distinguish between preparation and execution processes. Participants performed two keying sequences in a go/no-go version of the discrete sequence production task in which the context consisted of the color in which the target keys of a particular sequence were displayed. In a subsequent test phase, these colors either were the same as during practice, were reversed for the two sequences or were novel. Results showed that, irrespective of the amount of practice, performance across all key presses in the reversed context condition was impaired relative to performance in the same and novel contexts. This suggests that the online preparation and/or execution of single key presses of the sequence is context-dependent. We propose that a cognitive processor is responsible both for these online processes and for advance sequence preparation and that combined findings from the current and previous studies build toward the notion that the cognitive processor is highly sensitive to changes in context across the various roles that it performs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Awareness/physiology
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Motor Skills/physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time/physiology
  • Serial Learning/physiology
  • Visual Perception/physiology
  • Young Adult


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