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When the distractor task was withdrawn, the subjects changed performance showing they had learned the movements.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

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A cavity leads to a strong interaction between light and matter

Researchers have succeeded in creating an efficient quantum-mechanical light-matter interface using a microscopic cavity. Within this cavity, a single photon is emitted and absorbed up to 10 times by an artificial atom. This opens up new prospects for quantum technology, report physicists at the University of Basel and Ruhr-University Bochum in the journal Nature.

Quantum physics describes photons as light particles. Achieving an interaction between a single photon and a single atom is a huge challenge due to the tiny...

Im Focus: Solving the mystery of quantum light in thin layers

A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)

It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...

Im Focus: An ultrafast glimpse of the photochemistry of the atmosphere

Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.

The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...

Im Focus: Shaping nanoparticles for improved quantum information technology

Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.

Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...

Im Focus: Novel Material for Shipbuilding

A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.

The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

NEXUS 2020: Relationships Between Architecture and Mathematics

02.10.2019 | Event News

Optical Technologies: International Symposium „Future Optics“ in Hannover

19.09.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Kirigami inspires new method for wearable sensors

22.10.2019 | Materials Sciences

3D printing, bioinks create implantable blood vessels

22.10.2019 | Medical Engineering

Ionic channels in carbon electrodes for efficient electrochemical energy storage

22.10.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>