The John Hopkins University School of Medicine published the results of a study about the motor skill development and learning process. A team guided by Pablo A. Celnik made a test on 86 volunteers, asked to learn a computer-based motor skill. Those who quickly adjusted to a modified practice session the second time around performed better than when repeating their original task, the researchers found.
The results support the idea that a process called reconsolidation, in which existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge, plays a key role in the strengthening of motor skills.
“What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row,” says Celnik. The work, described in the Jan. 28 edition of the journal Current Biology, has implications not only for leisure skills, like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport, but also for helping patients with stroke and other neurological conditions regain lost motor function, he says.
“Our results are important because little was known before about how reconsolidation works in relation to motor skill development. This shows how simple manipulations during training can lead to more rapid and larger motor skill gains because of reconsolidation,” says Celnik. “The goal is to develop novel behavioral interventions and training schedules that give people more improvement for the same amount of practice time.”