Functional magnetic resonance imaging and a meta-analysis of prior neuroimaging studies were used to characterize cortical changes resulting from extensive practice and to evaluate a dual-processing account of the neural mechanisms underlying human learning. Three core predictions of the dual processing theory are evaluated: 1) that practice elicits generalized reductions in regional activity by reducing the load on the cognitive control mechanisms that scaffold early learning; 2) that these control mechanisms are domain-general; and 3) that no separate processing pathway emerges as skill develops. To evaluate these predictions, a meta-analysis of prior neuroimaging studies and a within-subjects fMRI experiment contrasting unpracticed to practiced performance in a paired-associate task were conducted. The principal effect of practice was found to be a reduction in the extent and magnitude of activity in a cortical network spanning bilateral dorsal prefrontal, left ventral prefrontal, medial frontal (anterior cingulate), left insular, bilateral parietal, and occipito-temporal (fusiform) areas. These activity reductions are shown to occur in common regions across prior neuroimaging studies and for both verbal and nonverbal paired-associate learning in the present fMRI experiment. The implicated network of brain regions is interpreted as a domain-general system engaged specifically to support novice, but not practiced, performance.