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Quick trick to learn a new skill

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Trying to learn a new skill like playing the piano or how to shoot a basketball can be supremely frustrating. But a study at the University of Montreal demonstrates a simple gimmick for getting your body and brain to cooperate.

The easiest way to accelerate your learning curve is to spend time training your body, practice the sequence of movements necessary for the new skill and then sleep on it.

The Canadian researchers found that a part of the brain called the subcortical regions have to work to coordinate how your nerves and muscles interact when you acquire a new skill. Sleep helps those parts of the brain better synchronize their functions.

“The subcortical regions are important in information consolidation, especially information linked to a motor memory trace. When consolidation level is measured after a period of sleep, the brain network of these areas functions with greater synchrony, that is, we observe that communication between the various regions of this network is better optimized,” says researcher Karen Dbas, a neuropsychologist. “The opposite is true when there has been no period of sleep. “

Many of the intricacies of how the brain consolidates its learning during sleep remain to be unraveled. But the advice for wanna-be pianists and athletes is clear: Practice, practice, practice and then get your head on the pillow.

“Our findings open the door to other research opportunities, which could lead us to better understand the mechanisms that take place during sleep and ensure better interaction between key regions of the brain,” adds researcher Julien Doyon. “Indeed, several other studies in my laboratory are examining the role of sleep spindles — brief physiological events during non-rapid eye movement sleep — in the process of motor memory trace consolidation.”

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