The present study used functional MRI to clarify the brain regions activated during a series of motor sequencing tasks in healthy volunteers. Ten subjects were scanned while performing three soft signs tasks ranging from simple (PT: palm tapping), moderate (PS: pronation/supination) to complex movements (FEP: fist-edge-palm). The FEP task induced significant activations within the cortical networks including bilateral sensorimotor, SMA, left parietal, and right cerebellum, but no activation in the prefrontal area. Moreover, the percentage signal changes within the left sensorimotor, left thalamus and right cerebellum showed an increase in activation with task complexity. The present findings challenge the traditional belief that FEP was a task for frontal lobe function but suggest that successful performance of more complex neurological soft sign tasks like FEP requires the participation of more brain areas than simple motor sequencing and coordination task like PS and PT. These also provide the empirical data on the neural basis of neurological soft signs for further study in other clinical group like schizophrenia in the near future.
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