Differentiation between external and internal cuing: An fMRI study comparing tracing with drawing

Emma Gowen, Rowland Miall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Citations (Scopus)


Externally cued movement is thought to preferentially involve cerebellar and premotor circuits whereas internally generated movement recruits basal ganglia, pre-supplementary motor cortex (pre-SMA) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Tracing and drawing are exemplar externally and internally guided actions and Parkinson's patients and cerebellar patients show deficits in tracking and drawing, respectively. In this study we aimed to examine this external/internal distinction in healthy subjects using functional imaging. Ten healthy subjects performed tracing and drawing of simple geometric shapes using pencil and paper while in a 3-T fMRI scanner. Results indicated that compared to tracing, drawing generated greater activation in the right cerebellar crus I, bilateral pre-SMA, right dorsal premotor cortex and right frontal eye field. Tracing did not recruit any additional activation compared to drawing except in striate and extrastriate visual areas. Therefore, drawing recruited areas more frequently associated with cognitively challenging tasks, attention and memory, but basal ganglia and cerebellar activity did not differentiate tracing from drawing in the hypothesised manner. As our paradigm was of a simple, repetitive and static design, these results suggest that the task familiarity and the temporal nature of visual feedback in tracking tasks, compared to tracing, may be important contributing factors towards the degree of cerebellar involvement. Future studies comparing dynamic with static external cues and visual feedback may clarify the role of the cerebellum and basal ganglia in the visual guidance of drawing actions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-410
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2007


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