Lay Query on Learning Repetitive Tasks

Bill Skaggs skaggs at bns.pitt.edu
Thu Jan 20 14:21:52 EST 2000


rwa at ecs.soton.ac.uk (Robin Allen) writes:

> Hello all. I have a somewhat odd request for info, and I'd be
> grateful for any input! This post represents a brief intrusion
> of alt.magic into the bionet groups - a rare occurrence, I 
> suspect.
> 
> For many years I've had an interest in sleight-of-hand with
> cards, and I've often wondered about the optimal way to practise
> various moves. [ . . . ]
>
> [ . . . ]
> 
> Such skills, it strikes me, must be pretty complex at the
> neurological level, and my query pertains to (1) what sorts
> of neurological processes are at work in learning them, and 
> (2) how best to train the body to develop them. I realise that 
> (1) is a pretty stiff question to ask! Can anyone point me in 
> the direction of some good layman's references on how such 
> repetitive tasks are (best) learned? Is a little practice taken 
> frequently best, or a long practice session taken occasionally? 
> Does anyone know of any studies into the acquisition of
> such skills? 

Unfortunately, our understanding of the neurobiological basis of skill
acquisition is not at the level that would be useful for the sorts of
questions you're asking.  For what it's worth, some people, including
me, think that the crucial changes take place in a part of the brain
called the cerebellum -- but even if this is correct, it still doesn't
automatically give you the necessary information about temporal
properties.  

I think there is a lot of literature relating to the best schedules
for motor learning, but it doesn't come from neuroscientists and I'm
not particularly familiar with it.  I bet the two groups who know most
about this are (1) music educators and (2) althetic trainers.  Those
are the areas I would look at for more useful information.

	-- Bill




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