Motor Skills Are Strengthened through Reconsolidation

Curr Biol. 2016 Feb 8;26(3):338-43. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.11.066. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


Newly acquired motor skills become stabilized through consolidation [1]. However, we know from daily life that consolidated skills are modified over multiple bouts of practice and in response to newfound challenges [2]. Recent evidence has shown that memories can be modified through reconsolidation, in which previously consolidated memories can re-enter a temporary state of instability through retrieval, and in order to persist, undergo re-stabilization [3-8]. Although observed in other memory domains [5, 6], it is unknown whether reconsolidation leads to strengthened motor skills over multiple episodes of practice. Using a novel intervention after the retrieval of a consolidated skill, we found that skill can be modified and enhanced through exposure to increased sensorimotor variability. This improvement was greatest in those participants who could rapidly adjust their sensorimotor output in response to the relatively large fluctuations presented during the intervention. Importantly, strengthening required the reactivation of the consolidated skill and time for changes to reconsolidate. These results provide a key demonstration that consolidated motor skills continue to change as needed through the remapping of motor command to action goal, with strong implications for rehabilitation.

Keywords: consolidation; memory; skill learning; strategy; variable practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Motor Skills*
  • Young Adult