Describing changes in the brain with practice

Working 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.

By analyzing different time scales of practice, we can get a sense of how activity in the brain changes over an hour, a day, or longer time periods of practice. These data provide important information about the neural networks that support skilled performance at different stages of learning. Learning and performance are supported by complex networks of brain regions at all stages of practice, but a few specific patterns of activity emerge when the data are combined. For instance, rapid adaption occurs withing the cerebullum (often in a single practice session). Conversely, a more long-term shift (shown in the figure) occurs in the striatum. Activity moves from the rostral striatum and pallidum at short/medium time scales (< 24 hrs) to the caudal-ventral striatum and pallidum at longer time scales (> 24 hrs).