Brain mechanisms for preparing increasingly complex sensory to motor transformations
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Movements made in response to sensory cues require the brain to transform sensory information into an appropriate motor output. Sensorimotor mappings used in daily life range from direct or "standard" to highly complex. In "nonstandard" sensorimotor tasks, the visual stimulus guiding an action is often not the target of the action. A common example of such a nonstandard mapping is the use of a computer mouse on a horizontal surface to guide an object visible on a vertical monitor. The present study used event-related BOLD fMRI to examine how patterns of brain activity vary as sensorimotor mappings become progressively more complicated. We observed significantly different patterns of cortical activity depending on the level of dissociation between a sensory input and a required motor response. Our results suggest the presence of a functional network generally involved in performing the type of nonstandard sensorimotor tasks examined. This putative network includes regions of the primary motor cortex, medial motor areas, the superior parietal lobule (SPL), and the lateral premotor cortex. The extent of activity in active areas varied depending on the characteristics of the particular sensorimotor mapping used in performing a task. Furthermore, in addition to this putative network, specific task-related areas of activity were observed.
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