Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 235, Issue 9, pp 2601–2613 | Cite as

Serial practice impairs motor skill consolidation

  • Kristin-Marie Neville
  • Maxime Trempe
Research Article


Recent reports have revealed that motor skill learning is impaired if two skills are practiced one after the other, that is before the first skill has had the time to become consolidated. This suggests that motor skills should be practiced in isolation from one another to minimize interference. At the moment, little is known about the effect of practice schedules high in contextual interference on motor skill consolidation. In Experiment 1, we investigated whether a serial practice schedule impairs motor skill consolidation. Participants had to learn two distinct sequences of finger movements (A and B) under either a blocked practice schedule or a serial practice schedule before being retested the following day. A control group also practiced Sequence A only. Our results revealed that a blocked practice schedule led to no interference between the sequences, whereas a serial practice schedule impaired the consolidation of Sequence B. In Experiment 2, we investigated the origin of the interference caused by a serial practice schedule by replacing the physical practice of Sequence A with either the observation of a model performing Sequence A or by asking participants to produce random finger movements. Our results revealed that both tasks interfered with the consolidation of Sequence B. Thus, we suggest that a serial practice schedule impairs motor skill consolidation through a conflict in the brain networks involved in the acquisition of the cognitive representation of the sequence and its execution.


Finger sequence task Consolidation Offline learning Contextual interference Serial practice Observational learning 



This work was supported by an Undergraduate Student Research Award provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (KM Neville).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sports Studies programBishop’s UniversitySherbrookeCanada

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