Progressive practice promotes motor learning and repeated transient increases in corticospinal excitability across multiple days

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Lasse Christiansen, Mads Alexander Just Madsen, Emil Bojsen-Møller, Richard Thomas, Jens Bo Nielsen, Jesper Lundbye-Jensen

Background: A session of motor skill learning is accompanied by transient increases in corticospinal excitability (CSE), which are thought to reflect acute changes in neuronal connectivity associated with improvements in sensorimotor performance. Factors influencing changes in excitability and motor skill
with continued practice remain however to be elucidated.
Objective/Hypothesis: Here we investigate the hypothesis that progressive motor practice during consecutive days can induce repeated transient increases in corticospinal excitability and promote motor skill learning.
Methods: Changes in motor performance and CSE were assessed during 4 consecutive days of skill learning and 8 days after the last practice session. CSE was assessed as area under recruitment curves (RC) using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Two groups of participants (n = 12) practiced a visuomotor
tracking-task with task difficulty progressively increased with individual proficiency (PPG) or with the same task level throughout all 4 days (NPPG).
Results: Progressive practice resulted in superior motor learning compared to NPPG (p < 0.001). Whereas NPPG displayed increased CSE following only the first day of practice (p < 0.001), progressive motor practice was accompanied by increases in CSE on both the first and the final session of motor practice (p = 0.006). Eight days after ended practice, the groups showed similar CSE, but PPG maintained superior performance at a skilled task level and transfer task performance (p < 0.005, p = 0.029).
Conclusion: The results demonstrate that progressive practice promotes both motor learning and repeated increases in CSE across multiple days. While changes in CSE did not relate to learning our results suggest that they signify successful training. Progressive practice is thus important for optimizing
neurorehabilitation and motor practice protocols in general.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)346-357
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 185841440