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Shifting to Automatic

Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3389/neuro.07.001.2010
  • Neuroscience
  • General Commentary


3C_fnint-04-001.indd Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience February 2010 | Volume 4 | Article 1 | 1 INTEGRATIVE NEUROSCIENCE GENERAL COMMENTARY published: 05 February 2010 doi: 10.3389/neuro.07.001.2010 Shifting to automatic Leonardo Restivo1 and Paul W. Frankland1,2* 1 Program in Neurosciences and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada 2 Department of Physiology and Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada *Correspondence: [email protected] A commentary on Dynamic reorganization of striatal circuits during the acquisition and consolidation of a skill. by Henry H. Yin, Shweta Prasad Mulcare, Monica R. F. Hilário, Emily Clouse, Terrell Holloway, Margaret I. Davis, Anita C. Hansson, David M. Lovinger and Rui M. Costa (2009). Nat. Neurosci. 12, 333–341. How does the brain acquire and retain complex motor kills? In a well-known zen story, a centipede was asked how he could coordinate all of his numerous feet without stumbling. The centipede said that he had never given it a thought. From that time on, the centipede became unable to move. This story nicely illustrates the idea that many motor skills that we commonly use through- out our life are mostly automatic and not accessible to conscious recall. The benefi t of this shift to automation (or habit) is that it frees us from continuously allocating atten- tional resources to motor sequences, mak- ing multi-tasking a possibility. However, habit formation represents only the last stage of the complex process of motor skill learning: the acquisition of motor skills is characterized by an initial phase of rapid improvement of the performance which is then followed by a later phase during which memory becomes more automatic as performance reaches an asymptotic level (Shiffrin and Schneider, 1977). Learning new motor sequences likely depends on a wide network of brain areas, necessarily involving the interaction betwe

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