Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex mediates working memory processes in motor skill learning

Yitong Lin, Yanling Pi, Yanqiu Wang, Xue Xia, Fanghui Qiu, Na Cao, Zhen Wang, Yu Liu, Jian Zhang, Xiaoying Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Neuroimaging studies have shown that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is recruited during motor skill learning, which suggests the involvement of the DLPFC in working memory (WM) processes, such as selection and integration of motor representations temporarily stored in WM. However, direct evidence linking activation of the DLPFC to WM storage and manipulation during motor skill learning in real-time is rare. In this study, we conducted two experiments to investigate the causal role of DLPFC activity in WM storage and manipulation during motor skill learning under low and high WM-demand conditions. Participants received continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) and sham stimulation (crossover design) over the left DLPFC (experiment 1) or right DLPFC (experiment 2). Before and after stimulation, participants in both experiments performed a sequential finger-tapping (SFT) task containing repeated sequence (low-WM demand) and non-repeated sequence (high-WM demand) conditions which are used to study WM processes. The number of correct sequences (NoCS) and reproduction error rate were analyzed. Learning gains in NoCS improved significantly with the practice for both sequence types in the presence of either stimulation type. Compared to sham stimulation, cTBS over the left DLPFC resulted in significantly reduced learning gains in NoCS for non-repeated sequences. These results suggest that the left DLPFC contributes to WM manipulation during motor skill learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102129
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Motor skill learning
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Working memory


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