Brain-behavior correlates of optimizing learning through interleaved practice

Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 03/2011; 56(3):1758-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.02.066
Source: PubMed


Understanding how to make learning more efficient and effective is an important goal in behavioral neuroscience. The notion of "desirable difficulties" asserts that challenges for learners during study result in superior learning. One "desirable difficulty" that has a robust benefit on learning is contextual interference (CI), in which different tasks are practiced in an interleaved order rather than in a repetitive order. This study is the first to combine functional imaging and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation to analyze the neural basis of the CI effect in skill learning. Difficulty during practice of a serial reaction time task was manipulated by presenting sequences of response locations in a repetitive or an interleaved order. Participants practiced 3 sequences for 2 days and were tested on day 5 to examine sequence-specific learning. During practice, slower response times (RT), greater frontal-parietal blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal, and higher motor cortex (M1) excitability were found in the interleaved condition compared to the repetitive condition. Consistent with the CI effect, we found faster RT, decreased BOLD signal in frontal-parietal regions, and greater M1 excitability during the day 5 retention task when subjects had practiced interleaved sequences. Correlation analyses indicated that greater BOLD signal in contralateral sensorimotor region and M1 excitability during interleaved practice were interrelated. Furthermore, greater BOLD signal in prefrontal, premotor and parietal areas and greater M1 excitability during interleaved practice correlated with the benefit of interleaved practice on retention. This demonstrates that interleaved practice induces interrelated changes in both cortical hemodynamic responses and M1 excitability, which likely index the formation of enhanced memory traces and efficient long-term retrieval.

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Available from: Parima Udompholkul, Feb 12, 2014
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    • "Journal of Neurophysiology ( Wymbs and Grafton , 2009 ) , Neuroimaging ( Lin et al . , 2011 ) , Cerebral Cortex ( Song et al . , 2012 ; Tanaka et al . , 2010 ) , Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience ( Cross et al . , 2007 ) and Human Brain Mapping ( Lin et al . , 2013 ) . All of the studies were conducted in the United"
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    ABSTRACT: Random practice results in more effective motor learning than either constant or blocked practice. Recent studies have investigated the effects of practice schedules at the neurophysiological level. This study aims to conduct a literature review of the following issues: (a) the differential involvement of premotor areas, the primary motor cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the posterior parietal cortex in different types of practice; (b) changes in the participation of these areas throughout practice; and (c) the degree of support that current neurophysiological findings offer to strengthen the behavioral proposition that distinct cognitive processes are generated by different practice schedules. Data from 10 studies that investigated associations between practice structures and neurobiological substrates were analyzed. The participation of the indicated areas was found to depend on practice structure and varied during the learning process. Greater cognitive engagement was associated with random practice. In conclusion, distinct neural processes are engendered by different practice conditions. The integration of behavioral and neurophysiological findings promotes a more comprehensive view of the phenomenon. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
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    • "The participants' behavior, as described in our previous study [Lin et al., 2011], followed the expected pattern of the CI effect. Performance in both conditions improved after 2 days of practice, and the overall response time (RT) during the practice phase was faster in the repetitive than in the interleaved condition (mean RT, repetitive ¼ 880.8 AE 69.4, "
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    ABSTRACT: Practice of tasks in an interleaved order generally induces superior learning compared with practicing in a repetitive order, a phenomenon known as the contextual-interference (CI) effect. Increased neural activity during interleaved over repetitive practice has been associated with the beneficial effects of CI. Here, we used psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis to investigate whether the neural connectivity of the dorsal premotor (PM) and the dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC) cortices changes when motor sequences are acquired through interleaved practice. Sixteen adults practiced a serial reaction time task where a set of three 4-element sequences were arranged in a repetitive or in an interleaved order on 2 successive days. On Day 5, participants were tested with practiced sequences to evaluate retention. A within-subjects design was used so that participants practiced sequences in the other condition (repetitive or interleaved) 2-4 weeks later. Functional magnetic resonance images were acquired during practice and retention. On Day 2 of practice, there was greater inter-regional functional connectivity in the interleaved compared with the repetitive condition for both PM-seeded and DLPFC-seeded connectivity. The increased functional connectivity between both seeded regions and sensorimotor cortical areas correlated with the benefit of interleaved practice during later retention. During retention, a significant PPI effect was found in DLPFC-seeded connectivity, with increased DLPFC-supplementary motor area connectivity correlated with the benefits of interleaved practice. These data suggest that interleaved practice benefits learning by enhancing coordination of sensorimotor cortical regions, and superior performance of sequences learned under CI is characterized by increased functional connectivity in frontal cortex. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Human Brain Mapping
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    • "It is possible that the choice RT task presented during preparation and the simple RT task during execution facilitate the engagement of premotor and motor cortices, respectively. Premotor (Boyd and Linsdell 2009) and motor (Lin et al. 2011) areas have been shown to be associated with enhanced motor learning. Hence, it may be that concurrent engagement of similar processes during practice facilitates the engagement of these specific neural substrates that subsequently enhances learning. "
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    ABSTRACT: Practicing a motor task under dual-task conditions can be beneficial to motor learning when the secondary task is difficult (Roche et al. in Percept Psychophys 69(4):513-522, 2007) or when it engages similar processes as the primary motor task (Hemond et al. in J Neurosci 30(2):650-654, 2010). The purpose of this pilot study was to determine which factor, difficulty level or engaged processes, of a secondary task is more critical in determining dual-task benefit. Participants practiced a discrete arm task in conjunction with an audio-vocal reaction time (RT) task. We presented two different RT tasks that differed in difficulty, simple versus choice (i.e., more difficult), at two different arm task phases that differed in engaged processes, preparation versus execution, resulting in four dual-task conditions. A simple RT task is thought to predominantly engage motor execution processes, therefore would engage similar processes as the arm movement task when it is presented during the execution phase, while a choice RT task is thought to engage planning processes and therefore would engage similar processes too when it is presented during the preparation phase. Enhanced motor learning was found in those who engaged similar process as the primary task during dual-tasking (i.e., choice RT presented during preparation and simple RT presented during execution). Moreover, those who showed enhanced learning also demonstrated high dual-task cost (poor RT task performance) during practice, indicating that both tasks were taxing the same resource pool possibly due to engaging similar cognitive processes. To further test the relation between dual-task cost and enhanced learning, we delayed the presentation timing of the choice RT task during the preparation phase and the simple RT task during the execution phase in two control experiments. Dual-task cost was reduced in these delayed timing conditions, and the enhanced learning effect was attenuated. Together, our preliminary findings suggest that it is the similarity hypothesis and not the difficulty hypothesis that mediates the enhanced motor learning under dual-task conditions.
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