Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Source of physical performance found in brain

14.06.2002


New research distinguishes between learning physical skills and brain activity associated with performing those skills



A new study from the Department of Veterans Affairs suggests that the brain’s coordination center is not active while we learn new motor skills – but it is active while we use them. The findings appear in the June 14 issue of Science.
Investigators concentrated on the cerebellum -- a part of the brain closely linked to movement (motor skills) and coordination. Located at the base of the brain, its function is somewhat mysterious.

The distinction between learning activity in the brain and performance activity represents an important step toward understanding more precisely how the brain processes information and how it affects the body.



The cerebellum’s role in learning motor skills has been controversial, mostly because as we learn a skill we also change our performance. So, is the cerebellum related to the skill itself or does it merely instruct the muscles and joints to improve performance?

Dr. James Ashe of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and colleagues from the University of Minnesota and University of Virginia found that they could train subjects to learn a finger-movement task but prevent them from changing their performance by asking them to perform another (distractor) task at the same time.

When the distractor task was withdrawn, the subjects changed performance showing they had learned the movements.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigators detected brain activity in the cerebellum during the performance of learned motor skills, but not during the learning phase itself.

These findings suggest that the cerebellum does not contribute to learning a sequence of motor skills per se, but rather to how well the skills are performed.

Dr. Ashe believes the findings hold potential significance for patients.

"This helps us understand some of the movement problems experienced by patients after stroke or other diseases of the cerebellum. It is possible that such understanding might be used in the future to develop better rehabilitation and training procedures to aid the recovery of function in patients with cerebellar disease."

According to Ashe, researchers may delve deeper into the effect practice has on performance.

"Our primary interest is in how changes in brain activity enable us to learn motor skills through practice. Work such as ours may help us understand which brain areas are most important for learning and why some individuals learn motor skills more easily than others."



The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA research provides improved medical care for veterans, as well as the general population. Through its unique affiliation with medical schools, VA plays a crucial role in educating future physicians in research and clinically oriented areas.


Linda Duffy | EurekAlert

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>