- Exercise performed after learning new motor skills helps remember the skill for a longer time.
- It increases brain connectivity and efficiency.
- For best results, exercise may be performed for at least fifteen minutes after training.
Exercise performed immediately after practicing a new motor skill improves its long-term retention, a research team at the McGill University finds. More specifically, the research shows, for the first time, that as little as a single fifteen-minute bout of cardiovascular exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency. It's a discovery that could, in principle, accelerate recovery of motor skills in patients who have suffered a stroke or who face mobility problems following an injury.
In his earlier work, Marc Roig, the senior author on the study, had already demonstrated that exercise helps consolidate muscle or motor memory. What he and the McGill-based research team sought to discover this time was why exactly this was the case. What was going on in the brain, as the mind and the muscles interacted? What was it that helped the body retain motor skills?
A muscular video game
To find out, the research team asked study participants to perform two different tasks. The first, known as a "pinch task" is a bit like a muscular video game. It consists of gripping an object akin to a gamers' joystick (and known as a dynamometer) and using varying degrees of force to move a cursor up and down to connect red rectangles on a computer screen as quickly as possible (see image on the right). The task was chosen because it involved participants in motor learning as they sought to modulate the force with which they gripped the dynamometer to move the cursor around the screen. This was then followed by fifteen minutes of exercise or rest.
More efficient brain activity
The researchers discovered that those who had exercised were consistently able to repeat the "pinch task" connecting different areas of the brain more efficiently and with less brain activity than those who hadn't exercised. More importantly, the reduction of brain activity in the exercise group was correlated with a better retention of the motor skill twenty-four hours after motor practice. This suggests that even a short bout of intense exercise can create an optimal brain state during the consolidation of motor memory which improves the retention of motor skills.
When they looked more specifically at what was going on, the researchers discovered that, after exercise, there was less brain activity, most likely because the neural connections both between and within the brain hemispheres had become more efficient.
"Because the neural activation in the brains of those who had exercised was much lower," explains Fabien Dal Maso, the first author on the paper, "the neural resources could then be put to other tasks. Exercise may help free up part of your brain to do other things."
The importance of sleep
What the researchers found especially intriguing was that when they tested participants at the eight hour mark, there was little difference between groups in skill retention. In fact both groups were less able to retain the skills they had newly acquired, than they were at the twenty-four mark when the difference between the two groups was once more apparent.
"What this suggests to us, and this is where we are going next with our research, is that sleep can interact with exercise to optimize the consolidation of motor memories," says Marc Roig, the senior author on the paper. "It is very exciting to be working in this area right now because there is still so much to be learnt and the research opens doors to health interventions that can potentially make a big difference to people's lives."
- Acute Cardiovascular Exercise Promotes Functional Changes in Cortico-Motor Networks During the Early Stages of Motor Memory Consolidation - ( https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811918302398?via%3Dihub)
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Chrisy Ngilneii. (2018, July 12). Motor Skills are Learned Better With Post -learning Exercise. Medindia. Retrieved on May 17, 2022 from https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/motor-skills-are-learned-better-with-post-learning-exercise-180924-1.htm.
Chrisy Ngilneii. "Motor Skills are Learned Better With Post -learning Exercise". Medindia. May 17, 2022. <https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/motor-skills-are-learned-better-with-post-learning-exercise-180924-1.htm>.
Chrisy Ngilneii. "Motor Skills are Learned Better With Post -learning Exercise". Medindia. https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/motor-skills-are-learned-better-with-post-learning-exercise-180924-1.htm. (accessed May 17, 2022).
Chrisy Ngilneii. 2021. Motor Skills are Learned Better With Post -learning Exercise. Medindia, viewed May 17, 2022, https://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/motor-skills-are-learned-better-with-post-learning-exercise-180924-1.htm.