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Motor Skills: What Kind of Practice Makes Perfect

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Motor Skills: What Kind of Practice Makes Perfect

Taewon Kim, M.S.

Our daily life requires complex procedural skills, which are basically presented sequential movements, such as playing a musical instrument, driving a car, typing a computer keyboard, and texting with a smart phone. Thus, learning sequence movements become very important to people to live more efficiently. For example, driving a manual vehicle, which are sort of decision making movements, requires a complicated pattern of subsequent motor skills while changing down a gear from third to second. While sequence movement skills are relatively acquired with an importance of extensive practice, even though consisted of difficult pattern of sequential movement. Considerable focus has been placed on the amount of practice that has led to a general belief that upwards of 10,000-hrs or approximately 10-years of practice is necessary to accomplish expertise. However, it is clear that practice extent is not the only critical feature of the training environment and there is growing evidence indicating that the type and structure of practice significantly influences procedural skill proficiency. Indeed, a variety of practice schedules have been associated with enhanced procedural learning. One in particular that has attracted considerable attention over the past 30 years, studied under the rubric of the contextual interference (CI) effect, focuses on the best practice for improving the acquisition of multiple, related procedural motor skills [1]. Specifically, it created greater CI by arranging training such that the learner practices multiple motor skills in a random format. Random Practice, as it is called, is assumed to create relatively high interference throughout training because of the rapid changes in task demands that unfold across practice trials. Conversely, blocked practice creates less interference because it entails (a) executing the same motor skill repeatedly for a fixed number of trials, or (b) the attainment of a criterion level of performance for a single task before the introduction of a new skill. This finding is robust having been observed for a wide variety of laboratory tasks for a diverse set of subject populations, as well as being used successfully in the clinical domain [2].

According to recent litterers proposed that differential activation of the motor cortex (M1) during random compared to blocked practice, a neural site implicated as critical to the permanent storage for motor memories, may be important in understanding why superior learning occurs as a result of random as opposed to blocked practice [3]. Thus, the presence of a rich memory network should provide a suitable foundation from which to incorporate new related task knowledge. Hopefully, we can contribute people to learn new motor skills quickly and effectively. Also, these efforts to learn new motor skills could aid in rehabilitative protocols for patients who have movement disorder. 


1. Shea, J. B., & Morgan, R. L., (1979). Contextual interference effects on the acquisition, retention, and transfer of a motor skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 5(2), 179.

2. Wright, D., Verwey, W., Buchanen, J., Chen, J., Rhee, J., & Immink, M. (2015). Consolidating behavioral and neurophysiologic findings to explain the influence of contextual interference during motor sequence learning. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 1-21.

3. Lin, C. H. J., Chiang, M. C., Knowlton, B. J., Iacoboni, M., Udompholkul, P., & Wu, A. D. (2013). Interleaved practice enhances skill learning and the funtional connectivity of fronto-parietal networks. Human brain mapping, 34(7), 1542-1558.



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