The motor cortex and cerebellum are thought to be critical for learning and maintaining motor behaviors. Here we use transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to test the role of the motor cortex and cerebellum in sensorimotor learning in speech. During productions of "head," "bed," and "dead," the first formant of the vowel sound was altered in real time toward the first formant of the vowel sound in "had," "bad," and "dad." Compensatory changes in first and second formant production were used as a measure of motor adaptation. tDCS to either the motor cortex or the cerebellum improved sensorimotor learning in speech compared with sham stimulation ( n = 20 in each group). However, in the case of cerebellar tDCS, production changes were restricted to the source of the acoustical error (i.e., the first formant). Motor cortex tDCS drove production changes that offset errors in the first formant, but unlike cerebellar tDCS, adaptive changes in the second formant also occurred. The results suggest that motor cortex and cerebellar tDCS have both shared and dissociable effects on motor adaptation. The study provides initial causal evidence in speech production that the motor cortex and the cerebellum support different aspects of sensorimotor learning. We propose that motor cortex tDCS drives sensorimotor learning toward previously learned patterns of movement, whereas cerebellar tDCS focuses sensorimotor learning on error correction.
J Cogn Neurosci
540 - 551