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Practice makes perfect, study confirms

Researchers were looking at fMRI brain scans of professional ballet dancers to measure the long-term effects of learning

Date:
January 29, 2016
Source:
York University
Summary:
Initial learning and performance at seven weeks led to increase in activation in cortical regions during visualization of the dance being learned when compared to the first week, shows a study on ballet cancers. However, at 34 weeks, it showed reduced activation in comparison to week seven.
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'Practice makes perfect' may be a cliché but a new brain study out of York U affirms this age old theory.

In this study, Faculty of Health researchers were looking at fMRI brain scans of professional ballet dancers to measure the long-term effects of learning.

"We wanted to study how the brain gets activated with long-term rehearsal of complex dance motor sequences," says Professor Joseph DeSouza, who studies and supports people with Parkinson's disease. "The study outcome will help with understanding motor learning and developing effective treatments to rehabilitate the damaged or diseased brain."

For the study, 11 dancers (19-50 years of age) from the National Ballet of Canada were asked to visualize dance movements to music, while undergoing fMRI scanning. The scans measured Blood-Oxygen-Level-Dependent (BOLD) contrasts at four time points over 34 weeks, when they were learning a new dance.

"Our aim was to find out the long-term impact of the cortical changes that occur as one goes from learning a motor sequence to becoming an expert at it," says coauthor Rachel Bar, who was a ballet dancer herself. "Our results also suggest that understanding the neural underpinnings of complex motor tasks such as learning a new dance can be an effective model to study motor learning in the real world."

The results showed that initial learning and performance at seven weeks led to increase in activation in cortical regions during visualization of the dance being learned when compared to the first week. However, at 34 weeks, it showed reduced activation in comparison to week seven.

"We found that in the learning process, our brain function makes an inverted 'U' learning pattern from a slow pace at the start, accelerating to a peak at the midpoint, before returning to the original pace, once we have mastered the task," says DeSouza. "An everyday example would be learning to drive a manual car, where you constantly have to think about shifting the gears until you master it and then do it instinctively."


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rachel J. Bar, Joseph F. X. DeSouza. Tracking Plasticity: Effects of Long-Term Rehearsal in Expert Dancers Encoding Music to Movement. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (1): e0147731 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147731

Cite This Page:

York University. "Practice makes perfect, study confirms: Researchers were looking at fMRI brain scans of professional ballet dancers to measure the long-term effects of learning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 January 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160129170533.htm>.
York University. (2016, January 29). Practice makes perfect, study confirms: Researchers were looking at fMRI brain scans of professional ballet dancers to measure the long-term effects of learning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160129170533.htm
York University. "Practice makes perfect, study confirms: Researchers were looking at fMRI brain scans of professional ballet dancers to measure the long-term effects of learning." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160129170533.htm (accessed July 28, 2016).

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