Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Learning And Skilled Performance Use Different Brain Circuits

Date:
October 6, 1998
Source:
Washington University School Of Medicine
Summary:
The parts of the brain that enable you to do a familiar task are different from those that learn that task, a new study confirms.

St. Louis, Oct. 5, 1998 -- The parts of the brain that enable you to do a familiar task are different from those that learn that task, a new study confirms.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reached this conclusion after obtaining positron emission tomography (PET) images of people tracing maze patterns. PET is one of the techniques that can reveal which areas of the brain are active.

"Our volunteers used some areas of the brain to learn the maze task but shifted to other areas after practice," says lead researcher Steven E. Petersen, Ph.D., professor of neurology, neurobiology and radiology.

The researchers report their results in the October issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology. Research assistant professor Hanneke van Mier, Ph.D., is first author.

Thirty-two right-handed volunteers took part in the study. They had to move a pen through cut-out mazes while keeping their eyes closed. Half traced with the left hand, half with the right.

When the volunteers first traced a maze, they moved the pen slowly and made many false turns. During this learning period, parts of the brain called the right premotor cortex, the right parietal cortex and the left cerebellum became active, PET images revealed.

After 10 minutes of practice, the volunteers provided another set of images. As they moved the pen through the maze quickly and without making errors, the supplementary motor area, near the junction of the brain's two hemispheres, became active. The areas that were active during learning were quiescent now that the volunteers had gained expertise.

Surprisingly, the hand used to perform the task made no difference to the results, suggesting that some learning areas code abstract information rather than motor instructions. Usually, the right arm activates the left side of the brain, and the left arm activates the right.

The researchers performed this work because a 1994 Washington University study uncovered a circuit shift after a verbal task was learned. "So this seems to be a general phenomenon," van Mier says.

Petersen suggests the brain uses general-purpose processors when faced with a new task. "But if the world asks you to do the same thing over and over," he says, "you develop circuits dedicated to that task."

van Mier H, Tempel LW, Perlmutter JS, Raichle ME, Petersen SE (1998). Changes in brain activity during motor learning measured with PET: Effects of hand of performance and practice. Journal of Neurophysiology, 80, 2177-2200.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Washington University's McDonnell Center for the Study of Higher Brain Function.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University School Of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Washington University School Of Medicine. "Learning And Skilled Performance Use Different Brain Circuits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981006072643.htm>.
Washington University School Of Medicine. (1998, October 6). Learning And Skilled Performance Use Different Brain Circuits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981006072643.htm
Washington University School Of Medicine. "Learning And Skilled Performance Use Different Brain Circuits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981006072643.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Newsy (Sep. 10, 2014) Researchers found commonly prescribed sleeping and anxiety pills such as Xanax and Valium could lead to an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins