Posted on Sep 26, 2014, 6 a.m.
To learn new sequences of movement (motor learning), the brain requires sleep to consolidate the new information.
The subcortical regions of the brain is important in information consolidation, especially information linked to motor learning. The consolidation of motor sequence learning is known to depend on sleep. Karen Debas, from the University of Montreal (Canada), and colleagues, taught a group of subjects a new sequence of piano-type finger movements on a box. The brains of the subjects were observed using functional magnetic resonance imaging during their performance of the task before and after a period of sleep. Meanwhile, the same test was performed by a control group at the beginning and end of the day, without a period of sleep. Using a brain connectivity analysis technique, which identifies brain networks and measures their integration levels, the researchers found that the cortico-striatal network—composed of cortical and subcortical areas, including the putaman and associated cortical regions, required time to consolidate and integrate the newly learned information. The study authors write that: “These findings reveal, for the first time, a new signature of motor sequence consolidation: a greater between-regions interaction within the cortico-striatal system.”
Debas K, Carrier J, Barakat M, Marrelec G, Bellec P, Hadj Tahar A, Karni A, Ungerleider LG, Benali H, Doyon J. “Off-line consolidation of motor sequence learning results in greater integration within a cortico-striatal functional network.” Neuroimage. 2014 Oct;99:50-8.