Neural Representations of Procedural Knowledge
Although declarative concepts (e.g., apple) have been shown to be identifiable from their fMRI signatures, the correspondence has yet to be established for executing a complex procedure like tying a knot. Seven participants were trained to tie seven knots. Their neural representations of these seven procedures were assessed with fMRI as they imagined tying each knot. A subset of the trained participants physically tied each knot in a later fMRI session. We demonstrate that: (1) procedural knowledge of tying a particular knot is reliably identified from its fMRI signature; (2) procedural signatures were found in frontal, parietal, motor, and cerebellar regions; and (3) planning to tie knots was reliably identifiable prior to physical tying, using a classifier trained on mental tying signatures, indicating the similarity of the procedural signatures in the two cases. The findings indicate that fMRI activation patterns can illuminate the representation and organization of procedural knowledge.