The way in which short and long-term motor memory work together and compete against one another has been uncovered by scientists.
The research - from a team led by Nicolas Schweighofer of the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at USC - could potentially pave the way to more effective rehabilitation for stroke patients.
If you focus on learning motor skills sequentially - for example, two overhand ball throws - you will acquire each fairly quickly, but are more likely to forget them later.
However, if you split your time up between learning multiple motor skills - say, learning two different throws - you will learn them more slowly but be more likely to remember them both later, researchers say.
In short, if your brain can rely on your short-term motor memory to handle memorizing a single motor task, then it will do so, failing to engage your long-term memory in the process.
However, if you deny your brain that option by continually switching from learning one task to the other, your long-term memory will kick in instead.
It will take longer to learn both, but you won't forget them later, the report concludes.
The study has been published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.