, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 205-216

Stages of motor skill learning

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Abstract

Successful learning of a motor skill requires repetitive training. Once the skill is mastered, it can be remembered for a long period of time. The durable memory makes motor skill learning an interesting paradigm for the study of learning and memory mechanisms. To gain better understanding, one scientific approach is to dissect the process into stages and to study these as well as their interactions. This article covers the growing evidence that motor skill learning advances through stages, in which different storage mechanisms predominate. The acquisition phase is characterized by fast (within session) and slow learning (between sessions). For a short period following the initial training sessions, the skill is labile to interference by other skills and by protein synthesis inhibition, indicating that consolidation processes occur during rest periods between training sessions. During training as well as rest periods, activation in different brain regions changes dynamically. Evidence for stages in motor skill learning is provided by experiments using behavioral, electrophysiological, functional imaging, and cellular/molecular methods.