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Abstract or Description

Mastering motor sequences is essential for many daily life activities, such as typing on a keyboard or playing a piano. This form of learning relies on the striatal nuclei (Doyon, 2008; Doyon et al., 2009) that form the principal inputs to a group of subcortical regions known as the basal ganglia. Previous research has shown that central obesity is associated with compromised striatal functioning, particularly when processing reward signals (Stice et al, 2008). Thus, it is possible that increased physical obesity may be linked to reduced skill learning in a sequential motor task. Using an indirectly-cued serial reaction time task (SRTT), long-term motor sequence learning was assessed in a cohort of thirty participants, with body types ranging from lean, to overweight, to obese. As expected, individuals with a greater degree of central adiposity, measured as central waist circumference, had slower rates of learning across training days compared to leaner counterparts. This association between learning and central adiposity was restricted to response speeds, but not accuracy. These findings confirm the association between physical obesity and the efficiency of long-term motor sequence learning, suggesting that obesity is a general basal ganglia concern, not just for reward processing, but also motor skill learning.


Advisor: Timothy Verstynen

Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

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