Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Practice makes the brain's motor cortex more efficient

Date:
August 4, 2013
Source:
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Summary:
Not only does practice make perfect, it also makes for more efficient generation of neuronal activity in the brain's primary motor cortex, say researchers. New findings have shown that practice leads to decreased metabolic activity for internally generated movements, but not for visually guided motor tasks, and suggest the motor cortex is "plastic" and a potential site for the storage of motor skills.

Not only does practice make perfect, it also makes for more efficient generation of neuronal activity in the primary motor cortex, the area of the brain that plans and executes movement, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Their findings, published online today in Nature Neuroscience, showed that practice leads to decreased metabolic activity for internally generated movements, but not for visually guided motor tasks, and suggest the motor cortex is "plastic" and a potential site for the storage of motor skills.

Related Articles


The hand area of the primary motor cortex is known to be larger among professional pianists than in amateur ones. This observation has suggested that extensive practice and the development of expert performance induces changes in the primary motor cortex, said senior investigator Peter L. Strick, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and chair, Department of Neurobiology, Pitt School of Medicine.

Prior imaging studies have shown that markers of synaptic activity, meaning the input signals to neurons, decrease in the primary motor cortex as repeated actions become routine and an individual develops expertise at a motor skill. The researchers found that markers of synaptic activity also display a marked decrease in monkeys trained to perform sequences of movements that are guided from memory -- an internally generated task -- rather than from vision. They wondered whether the change in synaptic activity indicated that neuron firing also declined. To examine this issue they recorded neuron activity and sampled metabolic activity, a measure of synaptic activity in the same animals.

All the monkeys were trained on two tasks and were rewarded when they reached out to touch an object in front of them. In the visually guided task, a visual target showed the monkeys where to reach and the end point was randomly switched from trial to trial. In the internally generated task the monkeys were trained to perform short sequences of movements without visual cues. They practiced the sequences until they achieved a level of skill comparable to an expert typist.

The researchers found neuron activity was comparable between monkeys that performed visually guided and internally generated tasks. However, metabolic activity was high for the visually guided task, but only modest during the internally generated task.

"This tells us that practicing a skilled movement and the development of expertise leads to more efficient generation of neuron activity in the primary motor cortex to produce the movement. The increase in efficiency could be created by a number of factors such as more effective synapses, greater synchrony in inputs and more finely tuned inputs," Dr. Strick noted. "What is really important is that our results indicate that practice changes the primary motor cortex so that it can become an important substrate for the storage of motor skills. Thus, the motor cortex is adaptable, or plastic.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nathalie Picard, Yoshiya Matsuzaka, Peter L Strick. Extended practice of a motor skill is associated with reduced metabolic activity in M1. Nature Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3477

Cite This Page:

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. "Practice makes the brain's motor cortex more efficient." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130804144503.htm>.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2013, August 4). Practice makes the brain's motor cortex more efficient. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130804144503.htm
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. "Practice makes the brain's motor cortex more efficient." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130804144503.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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