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Friedman, J., & Korman, M. (2016). Offline Optimization of the Relative Timing of Movements in a Sequence Is Blocked by Retroactive Behavioral Interference. Front. Hum. Neurosci., 10, 623.
Abstract: Acquisition of motor skills often involves the concatenation of single movements into sequences. Along the course of learning, sequential performance becomes progressively faster and smoother, presumably by optimization of both motor planning and motor execution. Following its encoding during training, “how-to” memory undergoes consolidation, reflecting transformations in performance and its neurobiological underpinnings over time. This offline post-training memory process is characterized by two phenomena: reduced sensitivity to interference and the emergence of delayed, typically overnight, gains in performance. Here, using a training protocol that effectively induces motor sequence memory consolidation, we tested temporal and kinematic parameters of performance within (online) and between (offline) sessions, and their sensitivity to retroactive interference. One group learned a given finger-to-thumb opposition sequence (FOS), and showed robust delayed (consolidation) gains in the number of correct sequences performed at 24 h. A second group learned an additional (interference) FOS shortly after the first and did not show delayed gains. Reduction of touch times and inter-movement intervals significantly contributed to the overall offline improvement of performance overnight. However, only the offline inter-movement interval shortening was selectively blocked by the interference experience. Velocity and amplitude, comprising movement time, also significantly changed across the consolidation period but were interference-insensitive. Moreover, they paradoxically canceled out each other. Current results suggest that shifts in the representation of the trained sequence are subserved by multiple processes: from distinct changes in kinematic characteristics of individual finger movements to high-level, temporal reorganization of the movements as a unit. Each of these processes has a distinct time course and a specific susceptibility to retroactive interference. This multiple-component view may bridge the gap in understanding the link between the behavioral changes, which define online and offline learning, and the biological mechanisms that support those changes.
Friedman, J., Amiaz, A., & Korman, M. (2022). The online and offline effects of changing movement timing variability during training on a finger-opposition task. Sci Rep, 12(1), 13319.
Abstract: In motor learning tasks, there is mixed evidence for whether increased task-relevant variability in early learning stages leads to improved outcomes. One problem is that there may be a connection between skill level and motor variability, such that participants who initially have more variability may also perform worse on the task, so will have more room to improve. To avoid this confound, we experimentally manipulated the amount of movement timing variability (MTV) during training to test whether it improves performance. Based on previous studies showing that most of the improvement in finger-opposition tasks comes from optimizing the relative onset time of the finger movements, we used auditory cues (beeps) to guide the onset times of sequential movements during a training session, and then assessed motor performance after the intervention. Participants were assigned to three groups that either: (a) followed a prescribed random rhythm for their finger touches (Variable MTV), (b) followed a fixed rhythm (Fixed control MTV), or (c) produced the entire sequence following a single beep (Unsupervised control MTV). While the intervention was successful in increasing MTV during training for the Variable group, it did not lead to improved outcomes post-training compared to either control group, and the use of fixed timing led to significantly worse performance compared to the Unsupervised control group. These results suggest that manipulating MTV through auditory cues does not produce greater learning than unconstrained training in motor sequence tasks.
Geller, N., Moringen, A., & Friedman, J. (2023). Learning juggling by gradually increasing difficulty vs. learning the complete skill results in different learning patterns. Front Psychol, 14, 1284053.
Abstract: Motor learning is central to sports, medicine, and other health professions as it entails learning through practice. To achieve proficiency in a complex motor task, many hours of practice are required. Therefore, finding ways to speed up the learning process is important. This study examines the impact of different training approaches on learning three-ball cascade juggling. Participants were assigned to one of two groups: practicing by gradually increasing difficulty and elements of the juggling movement (“learning in parts”) or training on the complete skill from the start (“all-at-once”). Results revealed that although the all-at-once group in the early stages of learning showed greater improvement in performance, the “learning in parts” group managed to catch up, even over a relatively short period of time. The lack of difference in performance between the groups at the end of the training session suggests that the choice of training regime (between all-at-once and learning in parts), at least in the short term, can be selected based on other factors such as the learner's preference, practical considerations, and cognitive style.