Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Motor memory: The long and short of it

Date:
September 13, 2011
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
For the first time, scientists have unlocked a mechanism behind the way short- and long-term motor memory work together and compete against one another.

For the first time, scientists at USC have unlocked a mechanism behind the way short- and long-term motor memory work together and compete against one another.

The research -- from a team led by Nicolas Schweighofer of the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at USC -- could potentially pave the way to more effective rehabilitation for stroke patients.

It turns out that the phenomenon of motor memory is actually the product of two processes: short-term and long-term memory.

If you focus on learning motor skills sequentially -- for example, two overhand ball throws -- you will acquire each fairly quickly, but are more likely to forget them later. However, if you split your time up between learning multiple motor skills -- say, learning two different throws -- you will learn them more slowly but be more likely to remember them both later.

This phenomenon, called the "contextual interference effect," is the result of a showdown between your short-term and long-term motor memory, Schweighofer said. Though scientists have long been aware of the effect's existence, Schweighofer's research is the first to explain the mechanism behind it.

"Continually wiping out motor short-term memory helps update long-term memory," he said.

In short, if your brain can rely on your short-term motor memory to handle memorizing a single motor task, then it will do so, failing to engage your long-term memory in the process. If you deny your brain that option by continually switching from learning one task to the other, your long-term memory will kick in instead. It will take longer to learn both, but you won't forget them later.

"It is much more difficult for people to learn two tasks," he said. "But in the random training there was no significant forgetting."

Schweighofer uncovered the mechanism while exploring the puzzling results of spatial working memory tests in individuals who had suffered a brain stroke.

Those individuals, whose short-term memory is damaged from the stroke, show better long-term retention because they are forced to rely on their long-term memories.

Schweighofer's paper appears in the August issue of Journal of Neurophysiology.

In the long term, he said he hopes this research could help lead to computer programs that optimize rehabilitation for stroke patients, determining what method of training will work best for each individual.

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. Schweighofer, J.-Y. Lee, H.-T. Goh, Y. Choi, S. Kim, J. C. Stewart, R. Lewthwaite, C. J. Winstein. Mechanisms of the contextual interference effect in individuals post-stroke. Journal of Neurophysiology, 2011; DOI: 10.1152/jn.00399.2011

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California. "Motor memory: The long and short of it." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110913152939.htm>.
University of Southern California. (2011, September 13). Motor memory: The long and short of it. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110913152939.htm
University of Southern California. "Motor memory: The long and short of it." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110913152939.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) As states slash funding for mental health services, police officers are interacting more than ever with people suffering from schizophrenia and other serious disorders of the mind. The consequences can be deadly. (April 10) Video provided by AP
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