Independent processing of the temporal and ordinal structure of movement sequences37

Fredrik Ullén, Sara L. Bengtsson

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55 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated if the temporal and ordinal structures of sequences can be represented and learned independently. In Experiment 1, subjects learned three rhythmic sequences of key presses with the right index finger: Combined consisted of nine key presses with a corresponding temporal structure of eight intervals; Temporal had the temporal structure of Combined but was performed on one key; Ordinal had the ordinal structure of Combined but an isochronous rhythm. Subjects were divided into two groups. Group 1 first learned Combined, then Temporal and Ordinal; Group 2 first learned Temporal and Ordinal, then Combined. Strong transfer effects were seen in both groups. In Group 1, having learned combined facilitated the learning of the temporal (Temporal) or ordinal (Ordinal) sequence alone; in Group 2, having learned Temporal and Ordinal facilitated the learning of Combined, where the two are combined. This supports that subjects had formed independent temporal and ordinal representations. In Experiment 2, we investigated if these can be learned independently. Subjects repeatedly reproduced sequences with fixed temporal and random ordinal structure; random temporal and fixed ordinal structure; and random temporal and ordinal structures. Temporal and ordinal learning was seen only in the first and second sequences, respectively. In summary, we provide evidence for the existence of independent systems for learning and representation of ordinal and temporal sequences and for implicit learning of temporal sequences. This may be important for fast learning and flexibility in motor control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3725-3735
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2003

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