Examining neural correlates of skill acquisition in a complex videogame training program.
ABSTRACT Acquisition of complex skills is a universal feature of human behavior that has been conceptualized as a process that starts with intense resource dependency, requires effortful cognitive control, and ends in relative automaticity on the multi-faceted task. The present study examined the effects of different theoretically based training strategies on cortical recruitment during acquisition of complex video game skills. Seventy-five participants were recruited and assigned to one of three training groups: (1) Fixed Emphasis Training (FET), in which participants practiced the game, (2) Hybrid Variable-Priority Training (HVT), in which participants practiced using a combination of part-task training and variable priority training, or (3) a Control group that received limited game play. After 30 h of training, game data indicated a significant advantage for the two training groups relative to the control group. The HVT group demonstrated enhanced benefits of training, as indexed by an improvement in overall game score and a reduction in cortical recruitment post-training. Specifically, while both groups demonstrated a significant reduction of activation in attentional control areas, namely the right middle frontal gyrus, right superior frontal gyrus, and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, participants in the control group continued to engage these areas post-training, suggesting a sustained reliance on attentional regions during challenging task demands. The HVT group showed a further reduction in neural resources post-training compared to the FET group in these cognitive control regions, along with reduced activation in the motor and sensory cortices and the posteromedial cortex. Findings suggest that training, specifically one that emphasizes cognitive flexibility can reduce the attentional demands of a complex cognitive task, along with reduced reliance on the motor network.
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ABSTRACT: In order to examine neurophysiological changes associated with the development of cognitive and visuomotor strategies and skills, spectral features of the EEG were measured as participants learned to perform new tasks. In one experiment eight individuals practiced working memory tasks that required development of either spatial or verbal rehearsal and updating strategies. In a second experiment six individuals practiced a video game with a difficult visuomotor tracking component. The alpha rhythm, which is attenuated by functional cortical activation, was affected by task practice. In both experiments, a lower-frequency, centrally distributed alpha component increased between practice sessions in a task-independent fashion, reflecting an overall decrease in the extent of cortical activation after practice. A second, higher-frequency, posterior component of the alpha rhythm displayed task-specific practice effects. Practice in the verbal working memory task resulted in an increase of this signal over right posterior regions, an effect not seen after practice with the spatial working memory task or with the video game. This between-task difference presumably reflects a continued involvement of the posterior region of the right hemisphere in tasks that invoke visuospatial processes. This finding thus provides neurophysiological evidence for the formation of a task-specific neurocognitive strategy. In the second experiment a third component of the alpha rhythm, localized over somatomotor cortex, was enhanced in conjunction with acquisition of tracking skill. These alpha band results suggest that cortical regions not necessary for task performance become less active as skills develop. In both experiments the frontal midline (Fm) theta rhythm also displayed increases over the course of test sessions. This signal is associated with states of focused concentration, and its enhancement might reflect the conscious control over attention associated with maintenance of a task-appropriate mental set. Overall, the results suggest that the EEG can be used to monitor practice-related changes in the patterns of cortical activity that are associated with task processing. Additionally, these results highlight the importance of ensuring that subjects have developed stable strategies for performance before drawing inferences about the functional architecture underlying specific cognitive processes.Cognitive Brain Research 02/1999; 7(3):389-404. · 3.77 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Working memory capacity has traditionally been thought to be constant. Recent studies, however, suggest that working memory can be improved by training. In this study, we have investigated the changes in brain activity that are induced by working memory training. Two experiments were carried out in which healthy, adult human subjects practiced working memory tasks for 5 weeks. Brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before, during and after training. After training, brain activity that was related to working memory increased in the middle frontal gyrus and superior and inferior parietal cortices. The changes in cortical activity could be evidence of training-induced plasticity in the neural systems that underlie working memory.Nature Neuroscience 02/2004; 7(1):75-9. · 15.25 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: 1. The projection from the somatosensory cortex to the primary motor cortex has been proposed to play an important role in learning novel motor skills. This hypothesis was examined by studying the effects of lesions to the sensory cortex on learning of new motor skills. 2. We used two experimental paradigms to reveal the effects of lesions on learning of new motor skills. One task was to catch a food pellet falling at various velocities. The other task was to catch a food pellet from a rotating level. Both tasks required acquisition of novel motor skills. 3. The training was started after a lesion of the hand area in the somatosensory cortex of one hemisphere. In both tasks, monkeys had severe difficulty in learning the new skills with the hand contralateral to the ablated somatosensory cortex, compared with the hand contralateral to the intact hemisphere. 4. After acquisition of the motor skill in the hand contralateral to intact hemisphere, lesion of the somatosensory cortex hand area did not abolish the learned motor skill. 5. In control experiments, monkeys were trained to pick up a food pellet from a rotating board. This task did not necessitate acquisition of new motor skills, but could be performed by utilizing existing motor skills. Lesion in the somatosensory cortex before or after the training did not affect the execution of this task by either hand. 6. It is concluded that the corticocortical projection from the somatosensory to the motor cortex plays an important role in learning new motor skills, but not in the execution of existing motor skills.Journal of Neurophysiology 09/1993; 70(2):733-41. · 3.30 Impact Factor