Extended practice of a motor skill is associated with reduced metabolic activity in M1

Nat Neurosci. 2013 Sep;16(9):1340-7. doi: 10.1038/nn.3477. Epub 2013 Aug 4.


How does long-term training and the development of motor skills modify the activity of the primary motor cortex (M1)? To address this issue, we trained monkeys for ~1-6 years to perform visually guided and internally generated sequences of reaching movements. Then, we used [(14)C]2-deoxyglucose (2DG) uptake and single-neuron recording to measure metabolic and neuron activity in M1. After extended practice, we observed a profound reduction of metabolic activity in M1 for the performance of internally generated compared to visually guided tasks. In contrast, measures of neuron firing displayed little difference during the two tasks. These findings suggest that the development of skill through extended practice results in a reduction in the synaptic activity required to produce internally generated, but not visually guided, sequences of movements. Thus, practice leading to skilled performance results in more efficient generation of neuronal activity in M1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Arm
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Carbon Isotopes / metabolism
  • Deoxyglucose / metabolism
  • Functional Laterality
  • Haplorhini
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / cytology*
  • Motor Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Upper Extremity / physiology


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Deoxyglucose