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Journal Article

Disrupting short-term memory maintenance in premotor cortex affects serial dependence in visuomotor integration


De Azevedo Neto,  RM
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;


Bartels,  A
Institutional Guests, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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De Azevedo Neto, R., & Bartels, A. (2021). Disrupting short-term memory maintenance in premotor cortex affects serial dependence in visuomotor integration. The Journal of Neuroscience, 41(45), 9392-9402. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0380-21.2021.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-51CF-3
Human behavior is biased by past experience. For example, when intercepting a moving target, the speed of previous targets will bias responses in future trials. Neural mechanisms underlying this so-called serial dependence are still under debate. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the previous trial leaves a neural trace in brain regions associated with encoding task-relevant information in visual and/or motor regions. We reasoned that injecting noise by means of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over premotor and visual areas would degrade such memory traces and hence reduce serial dependence. To test this hypothesis, we applied bursts of TMS pulses to right visual motion processing region hV5/MT+ and to left dorsal premotor cortex during inter-trial intervals of a coincident timing task performed by twenty healthy human participants (15 female). Without TMS, participants presented a bias towards the speed of the previous trial when intercepting moving targets. TMS over dorsal premotor cortex decreased serial dependence in comparison to the control Vertex stimulation, whereas TMS applied over hV5/MT+ did not. In addition, TMS seems to have specifically affected the memory trace that leads to serial dependence, as we found no evidence that participants' behavior worsened after applying TMS. These results provide causal evidence that an implicit short-term memory mechanism in premotor cortex keeps information from one trial to the next, and that this information is blended with current trial information so that it biases behavior in a visuomotor integration task with moving objects.Significance StatementHuman perception and action are biased by the recent past. The origin of such serial bias is still not fully understood, but a few components seem to be fundamental for its emergence: the brain needs to keep previous trial information in short-term memory and blend it with incoming information. Here, we present evidence that a premotor area has a potential role in storing previous trial information in short-term memory in a visuomotor task, and that this information is responsible for biasing ongoing behavior. These results corroborate the perspective that areas associated with processing information of a stimulus or task also participate in maintaining that information in short-term memory even when this information is no longer relevant for current behavior.