Supplementary motor area as key structure for domain-general sequence processing: A unified account

Giorgia Cona, Carlo Semenza

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Supplementary Motor Area (SMA) is considered as an anatomically and functionally heterogeneous region and is implicated in several functions. We propose that SMA plays a crucial role in domain-general sequence processes, contributing to the integration of sequential elements into higher-order representations regardless of the nature of such elements (e.g., motor, temporal, spatial, numerical, linguistic, etc.). This review emphasizes the domain-general involvement of the SMA, as this region has been found to support sequence operations in a variety of cognitive domains that, albeit different, share an inherent sequence processing. These include action, time and spatial processing, numerical cognition, music and language processing, and working memory. In this light, we reviewed and synthesized recent neuroimaging, stimulation and electrophysiological studies in order to compare and reconcile the distinct sources of data by proposing a unifying account for the role of the SMA. We also discussed the differential contribution of the pre-SMA and SMA-proper in sequence operations, and possible neural mechanisms by which such operations are executed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-42
Number of pages15
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Domain-general
  • fMRI
  • Language
  • Music
  • Neuroimaging
  • Numerical cognition
  • PET
  • Pre-SMA
  • Sequence processing
  • SMA
  • Space
  • Supplementary motor area
  • Time
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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