Complex sensorimotor transformation processes required for response selection are facilitated by the striatum

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Both fronto-parietal networks and the basal ganglia play an important role in action cascading. It is well-known that cortical structures mediate sensorimotor transformation for this purpose. The striatum receives extensive input from those cortical structures and has been shown to be modulated by the predictability of cortical input. Until today, it has however remained unclear whether the processing of spatial codes or even sensorimotor transformation processes for the purpose of action cascading involve the striatum. We therefore examined this question by means of fMRI using a stop-change task that varied the predictability as well as the complexity of sensorimotor transformations required for correct responding in the context of action cascading.

On the behavioral level, we found that the complexity of sensorimotor transformation processes only prolonged reaction times when the requirement for this transformation was predictable. fMRI results matched this effect showing enhanced activity of the caudate in case a complex sensorimotor transformation could be anticipated. Irrespective of the complexity of the required transformations, the putamen was furthermore involved in the prediction of imminent action cascading demands. Taken together, our findings give rise to a conceptual advance regarding basal ganglia function by showing that the anticipation and, more importantly, processing of complex sensorimotor transformation processes involves the striatum.

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