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Overlearning Cements Skills

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

For new skills to really stick, it’s important to practice them a little too much. According to a new study in Nature Neuroscience, in which people completed visual perception tasks, “overlearning” is one way to ensure a person’s new skills and performance gains are locked in. The underlying mechanism, the study found, is a temporary shift in the balance of the neurotransmitters that control neuroplasticity in the part of the brain where the learning occurred. This finding has profound implications for training. “If you want to learn something very important, maybe overlearning is a good way,” said Takeo Watanabe, a professor of cognitive linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University. “If you do overlearning, you may be able to increase the chance that what you learn will not be gone.” However, the study also found that learning similar tasks without overlearning could create interference. To achieve mastery, it’s better to focus on one task, with ample time between training sessions.

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