Previous studies suggest that horizontal reaching movements are planned vectorially with independent specification of direction and extent. The transformation from visual to hand-centered coordinates requires the learning of a task-specific reference frame and scaling factor. We studied learning of a novel reference frame by imposing a screen-cursor rotation and learning of a scaling factor by imposing a novel gain. Previous work demonstrates that rotation and gain learning have different time courses and patterns of generalization. Here we used PET to identify and compare brain areas activated during rotation and gain learning, with a baseline motor-execution task as the subtracted control. Previous work has shown that the time courses of rotation and gain adaptation have a short rapid phase followed by a longer slow phase. We therefore also sought to compare activations associated with the rapid and slower phases of adaptation. We isolated the rapid phase by alternating opposite values of the rotation or gain every 16 movements. The rapid phase of rotation adaptation activated the preSMA. More complete adaptation to the rotation activated right ventral premotor cortex, right posterior parietal cortex, and the left lateral cerebellum. The rapid phase of gain learning only activated subcortical structures: bilateral putamen and left cerebellum. More complete gain learning failed to show any significant activation. We conclude that the time course of rotation adaptation is paralleled by a frontoparietal shift in activated cortical regions. In contrast, early gain adaptation involves only subcortical structures, which we suggest reflects a more automatic process of contextual recalibration of a scaling factor.
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