Melodic Priming of Motor Sequence Performance: The Role of the Dorsal Premotor Cortex

Marianne A Stephan*, Rachel Brown, Carlotta Lega, Virginia Penhune

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)
225 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to specific auditory sequences leads to the induction of new motor memories and to investigate the role of the dorsal premotor cortex (dPMC) in this crossmodal learning process. Fifty-two young healthy non-musicians were familiarized with the sound to key-press mapping on a computer keyboard and tested on their baseline motor performance. Each participant received subsequently either continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) or sham stimulation over the dPMC and was then asked to remember a 12-note melody without moving. For half of the participants, the contour of the melody memorized was congruent to a subsequently performed, but never practiced, finger movement sequence (Congruent group). For the other half, the melody memorized was incongruent to the subsequent finger movement sequence (Incongruent group). Hearing a congruent melody led to significantly faster performance of a motor sequence immediately thereafter compared to hearing an incongruent melody. In addition, cTBS speeded up motor performance in both groups, possibly by relieving motor consolidation from interference by the declarative melody memorization task. Our findings substantiate recent evidence that exposure to a movement-related tone sequence can induce specific, crossmodal encoding of a movement sequence representation. They further suggest that cTBS over the dPMC may enhance early offline procedural motor skill consolidation in cognitive states where motor consolidation would normally be disturbed by concurrent declarative memory processes. These findings may contribute to a better understanding of auditory-motor system interactions and have implications for the development of new motor rehabilitation approaches using sound and non-invasive brain stimulation as neuromodulatory tools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number210
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2016


  • auditory-motor learning
  • dorsal premotor cortex
  • continuous theta burst stimulation
  • consolidation
  • crossmodal learning
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • melodic priming
  • motor learning
  • FMRI
  • HAND

Cite this