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From preparation to online control: Reappraisal of neural circuitry mediating internally generated and externally guided actions


Action plans internally generated (IG) from memory are thought to be regulated by the supplementary motor area (SMA), whereas plans externally guided (EG) online using sensory cues are believed to be controlled by the premotor cortex. This theory was investigated in an event-related fMRI study that separated the time course of activation before and during movement to distinguish advance planning from online control. In contrast to prevailing theory, the SMA was not more important for online control of IG actions. EG movement was distinguished from IG movement by greater activation in a more distributed right hemisphere parietal-frontal network than previously reported. Comparisons between premovement and movement periods showed that frontostriatal networks are central for preparing actions before movement onset. However, unlike cortical and cerebellar regions, the basal ganglia exhibited planning-related activity before, but not during, movement. These findings indicate that the basal ganglia mediate planning and online control processes in different ways and suggest a specific role for the striatum in internally planning sequences of actions before they are implemented.

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