Serial practice impairs motor skill consolidation
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.
KeywordsFinger 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).
- Lee TD (2012) Contextual interference: generalizability and limitations. Skill acquisition in sport: research, theory and practice, 2nd edn. Routledge, New York, pp 79–93Google Scholar
- Schmidt RA, Lee TD (2005) Motor control and learning: a behavioral emphasis, 4th edn. Human Kinetics, ChampaignGoogle Scholar
- Shea JB, Morgan RL (1979) Contextual interference effects on the acquisition, retention, and transfer of a motor skill. J Exp Psychol 5:179–187Google Scholar
- Tabacknick BG, Fidell LS (2007) Using multivariate statistics, 5th edn. Allyn and Bacon, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Trempe M, Proteau L (2012) Motor skill consolidation. In: Hodges N, Williams MA (eds) Skill acquisition in sport: research, theory and practice, 2nd edn. Routledge, New York, pp 192–210Google Scholar