Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Motor memory: The long and short of it

USC scientists explore motor memory in hopes of fostering better rehabilitation techniques for stroke patients

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.

Robert Perkins | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>