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.


Virtual reality is not just good for games and movies, it can aid rehabilitation by making errors seem larger (and easier to correct)

Motor rehabilitation programs that are based on low-cost, commercial gaming devices can be effective in improving upper-limb function. One of the reasons is increased rehabilitation time due to the added enjoyment of gaming whilst exercising. Now with Immersive virtual reality (VR) technology, home-based motor rehabilitation programs have the potential to become even more useful as they can be used to mimic real life environments and thus make it easier to transfer skills to every-day life. Immersive VR allows for the manipulation of sensory information to...

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...

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. Future professional players (youth and adult), were rated higher by coaches for all...

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). Some individuals chose for themselves which task to practice at the start of each trial (i.e., they were in control of the order of trials) or they were told which task...

Is being good at practice a transferable skill?

ImageHas 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. The question of how to structure practice in order...

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. Although experts and people with physical...

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...

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. This startle...

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.By analyzing different time scales of practice, we can get a sense of how activity in the...

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)....

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