Outreach posts

Publicly-funded research belongs in the public domain and it is our duty to make our research understandable. Here you will find posts that try to explain our research in a way that is user friendly. Many of the students in the lab will have written these posts and often these students have been directly involved in this research. It is our aim over the next few years to grow this site to provide summaries of all our newly published research. Please add your own comments and get involved with the discussion. And feel free to email us to let us know what you think or would like to see included here.

Limits to learning by observing: when learning by doing leads to differences in brain activity and behaviours in comparison to observation only


ImagePractitioners often use “learning by observation” when teaching new skills; however, there is limited research on how the brain - behavioural responses compare with “learning by doing”. We compared the brain responses when performing and watching a novel joystick-tracing task in three groups: a physical practice group, an observational practice group and a group that had no practice. We then compared their behavioural performance during retention. Following physical practice when all groups watched a video of the task, there was activation in motor regions bilaterally.

Relations between skill assessments of youth players, practice & play, and success in men's soccer


Academy, male youth soccer players were evaluated at different time points by coaches and rated in terms of technical, tactical, physical and creative skill. These players also provided estimates of hours accumulated in soccer activities that were either coach-led (practice) or self-led (what we term play). Coaches assessment of players at ~14 years was related to whether they would be offered youth professional contracts (at age 16 yr), but not adult contracts at age 19 yr.

Peer-guided practice of motor skills


If you were asked to organize a partner’s practice, how would you choose to do it? Would you use the same strategies you would use for yourself? In this study, we wanted to explore how people organize practice for a partner of equal (low) skill and compare this to how they choose to organize practice for themselves. Participants practiced 3 different tasks (involving timed sequences on a keypad).

Is being good at practice a transferable skill?


Image Has it ever seemed like experts in one domain more easily become skilled in another? In this study, we were interested in whether having expertise in a specific domain – and the vast practice experience that comes with it – influences how experts choose to practice when learning new skills outside their area of expertise.

Anticipating with our bodies


You're watching someone shoot on goal, but you can't see the final outcome. Can you predict what will happen next, and if you can, how are you able to do this? In a couple of studies, we've tested the idea that the way you solve this problem is by drawing on your own "motor memories". When people have had physical experience throwing a dart for example, if they now watch someone else throw a dart, they can "understand" that action by activating their own motor system and use their experience to arrive at a decision.

How practice without vision aids later seeing and predicting in a throwing task


ImageDo you think that blindfolded practice of a motor skill would allow you to more accurately predict the outcomes of that skill when viewing a video of someone else performing it?  Would you be able to improve in prediction ability as much as if you had full vision during practice?  In the present study we set out to see how the physical and visual experiences contribute to enhancing one's ability to predict action outcomes.

Do your movements have a “mind” of their own? When watching leads to unintended doing


ImageMany movements we perform on a daily basis are preplanned in our brains well before we intend to execute them. For example, when a sprinter takes the blocks in a race, they have a very good idea of what movements they need to produce when the starting signal is heard. If this starting sound is above a certain level (124 dB) it may elicit what is called a startle response.

Describing changes in the brain with practice


ImageWorking with Katie Wadden and Lara Boyd (in the Brain and Behaviour Lab, UBC), we have recently assembled a data base of neuroimaging studies exploring motor learning. These studies involve a range of skill types, tasks (one-handed, two-handed), and (most importantly) different durations of training.

How ice hockey players and fans understand hockey talk


ImageNicole Ong, in collaboration with Scott Sinnett (at the University of Hawaii) and other members of the Motor Skills Lab, recently had an experiment accepted for publication in Acta Psychologica. In this experiment, we wanted to explore how people understand action-related sentences and how this understanding might rely on the motor system (in addition to verbal and visual systems).

Mixing it up a little: Benefits of interspersing demonstrations with physical practice


Should we spend all of our practice time physically attempting skills, or is it good to intersperse our practice attempts watching someone else? In this study we required learners to practice aiming movements in a novel environment where they had to learn new relations between actions and visual outcomes. We showed that MIXED practice (in this case 25% physical practice, 75% observing) facilitated both strategy learning as well as a more robust measure of implicit (automatic) motor-learning, in comparison to either method alone.