Where Do Athletes Store Motor Memory?

fMRI imaging has identified the regions of the brain involved in both long- and short-term storage of motor memory, a finding which could help train and rehabilitate athletes.

AsianScientist (Dec. 16, 2015) – Researchers have visualized the storage of short- and long-term motor memory in the brain which can be used to monitor brain activity during exercise. Their results, published in PLOS Biology, are expected to contribute to the development of effective sports training and rehabilitation with long-term impact.

Memories rapidly decay when they are acquired in a short period (e.g., a short intensive learning before an examination), yet they are maintained for a long time when they are acquired over a long period (e.g., learning how to ride a bicycle). Previous studies have theoretically indicated existence of short- and long-term motor memories in the brain, but researchers had yet to visualize the process of memory acquisition and obtain supporting empirical evidence.

To visualizing the acquisition processes of short- and long-term motor memory in different areas of the brain, a team of researchers led by Professor Hiroshi Imamizu at the University of Tokyo combined computational modeling and a technique for the measurement of brain activity known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Their study demonstrated that the shortest memories are associated with the broad fronto-parietal network, intermediate memories are associated with specific regions in the parietal lobe, and the longest memories are associated with the cerebellum.

“It is difficult to infer from human behavior if training effects are stored in short or long-term memory. Even if someone appears superficially to be able to perform an action well, the effect of exercise will soon disappear if it is stored only in the short-term memory,” said Imamizu.

“Our newly developed method combining brain imaging and computational modeling can estimate internal states of the brain and predict how long the memory acquired during the training will be maintained in the brain.”

By monitoring brain activity during exercise, this method is expected to contribute to development of effective sports training and rehabilitation techniques with long-term impact.

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2015) Neural Substrates Related to Motor Memory with Multiple Timescales in Sensorimotor Adaptation.


Source: The University of Tokyo; Photo: Erik Drost/Flickr/CC.
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