Previous studies using low frequency (1 Hz) rTMS over the motor and premotor cortex have examined repetitive movements, but focused either on motor aspects of performance such as movement speed, or on variability of the produced intervals. A novel question is whether TMS affects the synchronization of repetitive movements with an external cue (sensorimotor synchronization). In the present study participants synchronized finger taps with the tones of an auditory metronome. The aim of the study was to examine whether motor and premotor cortical inhibition induced by rTMS affects timing aspects of synchronization performance such as the coupling between the tap and the tone and error correction after a metronome perturbation. Metronome sequences included perturbations corresponding to a change in the duration of a single interval (phase shifts) that were either small and below the threshold for conscious perception (10 ms) or large and perceivable (50 ms). Both premotor and motor cortex stimulation induced inhibition, as reflected in a lengthening of the silent period. Neither motor nor premotor cortex rTMS altered error correction after a phase shift. However, motor cortex stimulation made participants tap closer to the tone, yielding a decrease in tap-tone asynchrony. This provides the first neurophysiological demonstration of a dissociation between error correction and tap-tone asynchrony in sensorimotor synchronization. We discuss the results in terms of current theories of timing and error correction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas