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Keywords:

  • cerebral blood flow;
  • functional asymmetry;
  • motor areas;
  • motor skill learning;
  • positron emission tomography

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the cortical motor areas activated in relation to unilateral complex hand movements of either hand, and the motor area related to motor skill learning. Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured in eight right-handed healthy male volunteers using positron emission tomography during a two-ball-rotation task using the right hand, the same task using the left hand and two control tasks. In the two-ball-rotation tasks, subjects were required to rotate the same two iron balls either with the right or left hand. In the control task, they were required to hold two balls in each hand without movement. The primary motor area, premotor area and cerebellum were activated bilaterally with each unilateral hand movement. In contrast, the supplementary motor area proper was activated only by contralateral hand movements. In addition, we found a positive correlation between the rCBF to the premotor area and the degree of improvement in skill during motor task training. The results indicate that complex hand movements are organized bilaterally in the primary motor areas, premotor areas and cerebellum, that functional asymmetry in the motor cortices is not evident during complex finger movements, and that the premotor area may play an important role in motor skill learning.