Although it is known that practicing a motor skill updates the associated internal model, it is still unclear as to how cortical oscillations linked with the motor skill change under differing practice schedules. The current study investigated α- and β-power changes associated with motor skill acquisition. Firstly, we investigated the behavioral effects of practice on motor learning and retention during repetitive (RP) and variable (VP) practice schedules on an anticipation timing task. Secondly, we investigated changes in cortical α (10-13 HZ) and β (15-30 Hz) event-related synchronization and dyssynchronization (ERS/ERD) under RP and VP during early (EP) and late (LP) stages of practice. To investigate the behavioral effects of practice on learning and retention, participants were pretested, post-tested at 5 min (retention), and tested twice at 30 min (one for longer retention, one for transfer to a novel velocity). Based on a 2 x 4 (Practice Group x Practice Trial Blocks) ANOVA, results indicated a significant learning effect for both group participants, with VP participants performing better on the 30 min transfer test. To investigate EEG α and β power changes, data were collected from electrode sites T7, T8, C3, C4, CP3, CP4, FCz, AFz, and Pz, and were analyzed using separate, 2 x 2 repeated measures ANOVA (Group [RP and VP] x Practice Trial Blocks [EP and LP]). Power analyses revealed (1) attenuated α ERD at T7 (cognitive/verbal rehearsal), C3 (motor cortex), CP3, CP4, and FCz (pooled data representing premotor cortices), and AFz (frontal cortex and attentional processes) during LP, with greater changes observed in PMA, T7, and AFz electrode sites in RP participants. β frequency analysis, using beta modulation depth (BMD), revealed that participants in both groups had increased BMD at premotor, motor, and frontal electrode sites at LP, with RP participants exhibiting greater changes. Results are in accordance with previous research indicating that practicing under a VP schedule leads to superior motor skill transfer than practicing under an RP schedule. Moreover, lesser changes in α ERD along and lower BMD observed in VP participants might be responsible for a more adaptable and flexible motor program, allowing for greater skill retention and transfer in individuals practicing under VP conditions.


Psychology; Kinesiology; Electrical and Computer Engineering

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