A physiological signal that prevents motor skill improvements during consolidation

Tunovic, S., Press, D.Z. and Robertson, E. M. (2014) A physiological signal that prevents motor skill improvements during consolidation. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(15), pp. 5302-5310. (doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3497-13.2014) (PMID:24719108) (PMCID:PMC3983806)

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Different memories follow different processing pathways. For example, some motor skill memories are enhanced over wakefulness, whereas others are instead enhanced over sleep. The processing pathway that a motor skill memory follows may be determined by functional changes within motor circuits. We tested this idea using transcranial magnetic stimulation to measure corticospinal excitability at 6, 21, 36, 96, and 126 min after participants learnt tasks that either were or were not enhanced over wakefulness. There was no change in corticospinal excitability after learning a motor skill that was subsequently enhanced; whereas, there was a substantial transient decrease in corticospinal excitability after learning a motor skill that was not enhanced. In subsequent experiments, we abolished the decrease in corticospinal excitability by applying theta burst stimulation to either the dorsolateral prefrontal or primary motor cortex, and induced motor skill improvements during consolidation. The motor skill improvements in each experiment were correlated with the corticospinal excitability after learning. Together, these experiments suggest that corticospinal excitability changes act as a physiological signal, which prevents improvements from developing over wakefulness, and so when this signal is abolished improvements are induced. Our observations show that the human brain can actively prevent the processing of memories, and provides insights into the mechanisms that control the fate of memories.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences 0921177; E.M.R.), and by the infrastructure provided by The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health; 8UL1TR00017-05).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Robertson, Professor Edwin
Authors: Tunovic, S., Press, D.Z., and Robertson, E. M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Neuroscience
Publisher:Society for Neuroscience
ISSN (Online):1529-2401

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