Learning stage-dependent effect of M1 disruption on value-based motor decisions

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Abstract

The present study aimed at characterizing the impact of M1 disruption on the implementation of implicit value information in motor decisions, at both early stages (during reinforcement learning) and late stages (after consolidation) of action value encoding. Fifty subjects performed, over three consecutive days, a task that required them to select between two finger responses according to the color (instruction) and to the shape (implicit, undisclosed rule) of an imperative signal: considering the implicit rule in addition to the instruction allowed subjects to earn more money. We investigated the functional contribution of M1 to the implementation of the implicit rule in subjects' motor decisions. Continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) was applied over M1 either on Day 1 or on Day 3, producing a temporary lesion either during reinforcement learning (cTBSLearning group) or after consolidation of the implicit rule, during decision-making (cTBSDecision group), respectively. Interestingly, disrupting M1 activity on Day 1 improved the reliance on the implicit rule, plausibly because M1 cTBS increased dopamine release in the putamen in an indirect way. This finding corroborates the view that cTBS may affect activity in unstimulated areas, such as the basal ganglia. Notably, this effect was short-lasting; it did not persist overnight, suggesting that the functional integrity of M1 during learning is a prerequisite for the consolidation of implicit value information to occur. Besides, cTBS over M1 did not impact the use of the implicit rule when applied on Day 3, although it did so when applied on Day 2 in a recent study where the reliance on the implicit rule declined following cTBS (Derosiere et al., 2017). Overall, these findings indicate that the human M1 is functionally involved in the consolidation and implementation of implicit value information underlying motor decisions. However, M1 contribution seems to vanish as subjects become more experienced in using the implicit value information to make their motor decisions.

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