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Keywords:

  • auditory–motor interaction;
  • fMRI;
  • rhythm;
  • superior temporal gyrus;
  • supplementary motor area

Abstract

We investigated effector-independent aspects of voluntary motor timing, using behavioural measurements and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Two types of temporal pattern were investigated; one isochronous, the other a metric, rhythmic sequence of six temporal intervals. Each pattern was performed using tapping movements with the left or right index fingers, or rhythmic speech on one syllable. Deviations from the ideal temporal pattern in the rhythmic sequence tasks were consistent between the three different effectors, within subjects. This suggests that the same representation of the rhythm was used to time the movements with all effectors. To reveal brain regions involved in such effector-independent timing, we localized the overlap in brain activity when the rhythmic sequence was performed with the different effectors. Activity was found in the mesial and lateral premotor cortices, posterior and anterior regions of the superior temporal gyrus and the inferior frontal cortex. Subcortical activations were in the left globus pallidus, the vermis and bilaterally in the cerebellar hemispheres (lobule VI) and the thalamus. The overlap in activity between the isochronous tasks included the same set of brain regions, except for the basal ganglia and the thalamus. Rhythmic sequences had significantly higher activity in mesial premotor cortex, the left superior temporal gyrus and the cerebellum, than had isochronous movements. These findings reveal a set of brain regions likely to be involved in effector-independent representations of temporal patterns in voluntary motor timing. A subset of these regions plays important roles for the organization of rhythmic sequences of several intervals.