Cerebellar activation during motor sequence learning is associated with subsequent transfer to new sequences

Renee E. Shimizu, Allan D. Wu, Barbara J. Knowlton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Effective learning results not only in improved performance on a practiced task, but also in the ability to transfer the acquired knowledge to novel, similar tasks. Using a modified serial reaction time (RT) task, the authors examined the ability to transfer to novel sequences after practicing sequences in a repetitive order versus a nonrepeating interleaved order. Interleaved practice resulted in better performance on new sequences than repetitive practice. In a second study, participants practiced interleaved sequences in a functional MRI (fMRI) scanner and received a transfer test of novel sequences. Transfer ability was positively correlated with cerebellar blood oxygen level dependent activity during practice, indicating that greater cerebellar engagement during training resulted in better subsequent transfer performance. Interleaved practice may thus result in a more generalized representation that is robust to interference, and the degree of activation in the cerebellum may be a reflection of the instantiation and engagement of internal models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-584
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • Contextual interference
  • Sequence learning
  • Transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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