Udayavni Special

Brain wiring changes when mastering new skills: Study


Team Udayavani, Jun 12, 2019, 2:55 PM IST

Image for Representation

Washington: Mastering a new skill — whether a sport, an instrument, or a craft — causes new neural activity patterns to emerge in the brain, a study has found.

While it is understood that a healthy brain is capable of learning these new skills, how the brain changes in order to develop new behaviours is a relative mystery.

More precise knowledge of this underlying neural circuitry may eventually improve the quality of life for individuals who have suffered brain injury by enabling them to more easily relearn everyday tasks.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the US reveals what happens in the brain as learners progress from novice to expert.

The research, published in the journal PNAS, showed that new neural activity patterns emerge with long-term learning and established a causal link between these patterns and new behavioural abilities.

“We used a brain-computer interface (BCI), which creates a direct connection between our subject’s neural activity and the movement of a computer cursor,” said Emily Oby, a postdoctoral associate from the University of Pittsburgh.

“We recorded the activity of around 90 neural units in the arm region of the primary motor cortex of Rhesus monkeys as they performed a task that required them to move the cursor to align with targets on the monitor,” Oby said.

To determine whether the monkeys would form new neural patterns as they learned, the research group encouraged the animals to attempt a new BCI skill and then compared those recordings to the pre-existing neural patterns.

“We first presented the monkey with what we call an ‘intuitive mapping’ from their neural activity to the cursor that worked with how their neurons naturally fire and which didn’t require any learning,” said Oby.

“We then induced learning by introducing a skill in the form of a novel mapping that required the subject to learn what neural patterns they need to produce in order to move the cursor,” she said.

Like learning most skills, the group’s BCI task took several sessions of practice and a bit of coaching along the way.

“We discovered that after a week, our subject was able to learn how to control the cursor,” said Aaron Batista, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“This is striking because, by construction, we knew from the outset that they did not have the neural activity patterns required to perform this skill,” Batista said.

“Sure enough, when we looked at the neural activity again after learning we saw that new patterns of neural activity had appeared, and these new patterns are what enabled the monkey to perform the task,” he said.

These findings suggest that the process for humans to master a new skill might also involve the generation of new neural activity patterns.

“We think that extended practice builds new synaptic connectivity that leads directly to the development of new patterns of activity that enable new abilities,” said Steven Chase, associate professor at CMU.

“We think this work applies to anybody who wants to learn — whether it be a paralysed individual learning to use a brain-computer interface or a stroke survivor who wants to regain normal motor function,” Chase.

Udayavani is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest news.

Top News

Cong crisis: Punjab minister quits ‘in solidarity with’ Sidhu

Mangaluru: Miscreants attack petrol pump manager, rob Rs 4.20 lakh

Delhi riots: ”Sorry state of affairs” says court after no progress in probe

Kerala HC dismisses bail pleas of 4 accused in the Muttil village tree felling case

Woman beaten to death, 6 booked for murder

SM Krishna to inaugurate Nadahabba Mysuru Dasara 2021

Datta Peetha- HC verdict vindicates Hindu sentiments: CT Ravi

Related Articles More

Smoking may increase risk of COVID-19 severity, death, study finds

Social media, activism, trucker caps: the fascinating story behind long COVID

Covid pandemic caused biggest decrease in life expectancy since World War II: Oxford study

COVID smell loss can have profound effects on your life, from weight change to intimacy barriers

71 per cent urban millennials opted for fad diets during pandemic, says survey

MUST WATCH

Sunil Hegade talk about Jan Aushadhi kendra at dandeli

Yuva morcha members in kapu

CT Ravi statement about highcourt verdict

Scientist statement at Hunasala Bidar

Jasmine | Easiest Way to Grow Plants from Cuttings


Latest Additions

Cong crisis: Punjab minister quits ‘in solidarity with’ Sidhu

Mangaluru: Miscreants attack petrol pump manager, rob Rs 4.20 lakh

Delhi riots: ”Sorry state of affairs” says court after no progress in probe

FinMin officials pitch for better sovereign rating outlook with Moody’s

Kerala HC dismisses bail pleas of 4 accused in the Muttil village tree felling case

Thanks for visiting Udayavani

You seem to have an Ad Blocker on.
To continue reading, please turn it off or whitelist Udayavani.