Dorsal Premotor Cortex and Conditional Rule Resolution: A High-Frequency TMS Investigation

AbstractBehavior that is contingent on conditional rules necessitates an abstraction away from concrete stimulus-response identities in order to form a rule template, but also a subsequent transformation of representation back into sensorimotor format in order to produce concrete behavior. Evidence suggests that dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) is well-positioned to mediate such an operation. We utilized repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, a non-invasive manner of perturbing the functioning of targeted cortical regions, to investigate the role of dorsal premotor cortex during performance of a Rapid Instructed Task Learning paradigm. The task required participants to form conditional associations between stimuli and responses carrying varying levels of abstraction. Selective interference of response times to stimuli presentation was observed only when the task necessitated the participants to resolve a conditional response referring to an internally-produced representation of a rule element with relatively abstracted quality. We conclude that PMd specifically supports conditional rule behavior through transformation of abstract representations to concrete response, when the conditional rule necessary to resolve includes abstract, internally-produced identities.


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