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Extra brain processing during sleep improves learning of new motor skills: study

October 23, 2021 10:35 p.m. STI

Washington [US], October 23 (ANI): Practice makes perfect, but sleep helps too. Learning and performing a new motor skill can be enhanced if you can get additional memory processing done during sleep, according to a recent study by researchers at Northwestern University.
The study was published in the journal JNeurosci.
The researchers compared how well the participants performed a difficult motor task with and without the additional treatment during sleep.

Participants played a computer game using a myoelectric computer interface, which allowed them to move a cursor by activating specific arm muscles. Each command to move the cursor in a particular direction was associated with a unique sound; after practicing, participants played the game blindfolded and moved the cursor based on the sound signal alone.
After completing a test lap, participants took a 90-minute nap.
The researchers played half of the sound cues during the nap, reactivating the motor memories associated with each cue.
After the nap, participants performed signaled movements better than unsignaled movements during sleep: it took less time to move the cursor, the cursor traveled a more direct route, and fewer superfluous muscles were activated. These results show that we can improve the performance of new motor skills by reactivating memories during sleep.
This approach could be a way to improve rehabilitation for strokes or other neurological disorders. (ANI)

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