Neural Competitive Queuing of Ordinal Structure Underlies Skilled Sequential Action

Katja Kornysheva, Daniel Bush, Sofie S Meyer, Anna Sadnicka, Gareth Barnes, Neil Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fluent retrieval and execution of movement sequences is essential for daily activities, but the neural mechanisms underlying sequence planning remain elusive. Here participants learned finger press sequences with different orders and timings and reproduced them in a magneto-encephalography (MEG) scanner. We classified the MEG patterns for each press in the sequence and examined pattern dynamics during preparation and production. Our results demonstrate the "competitive queuing" (CQ) of upcoming action representations, extending previous computational and non-human primate recording studies to non-invasive measures in humans. In addition, we show that CQ reflects an ordinal template that generalizes across specific motor actions at each position. Finally, we demonstrate that CQ predicts participants' production accuracy and originates from parahippocampal and cerebellar sources. These results suggest that the brain learns and controls multiple sequences by flexibly combining representations of specific actions and interval timing with high-level, parallel representations of sequence position.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166-1180.e3
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Adult
  • Apraxias/physiopathology
  • Brain/physiology
  • Cerebellum/physiology
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Learning/physiology
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Memory/physiology
  • Motor Activity/physiology
  • Movement
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus/physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Young Adult


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