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Change your practice sessions to learn new skill

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New York: For practicing and developing a new skill, making slight changes during practice sessions may help to master the skill faster than practicing in the same manner, a new study has found.

The results support the idea of a process called reconsolidation, in which existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge, plays a key role in strengthening of motor skills, said senior author Pablo A Celnik from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.

“What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row,” Celnik added.

The study was published in the journal Current Biology, suggests reconsolidation is not only for leisure skills like learning a musical instrument or a sport, but it is also beneficial for helping patients with stroke and other neurological conditions regain lost motor function, Celnik explained.

For the study, 86 healthy volunteers were asked to learn a computer-based motor skill using an isometric pinch task over the course of two or three 45-minute sessions.

The volunteers were divided in three groups. The first group completed a typical training schedule and repeated the exact same training lesson six hours later.

The second group performed the first practice session and, after six hours, completed a second training session in which researchers had twisted the test and the third group performed the exact same task just once a day.

Speedier and more accurate completion of the task, nearly doubled among those in the second group compared to those in the first group, who repeated the same task, the study found.

Participants in the third group, who skipped the second session, performed approximately 25 percent worse than those in the first group.

“If you make the altered task too different, people do not get the gain we observed during reconsolidation. The modification between sessions needs to be subtle,” he says.

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