Learning A New Skill

Dr. Henry Holcomb

Psychiatrist,  Johns Hopkins University

It takes the brain about six hours to store in memory a new physical skill, such as riding a bike (or FUNdamental dribbling fake/feints) and this memory can be wiped out if the mind’s storage process is interrupted by trying to learn another new skill researchers have found.

We’ve shown that time itself is a very powerful component of learning,” said Dr. Henry Holcomb, a psychiatrist who heads a Johns Hopkins University group that studies how people remember. “It is not enough to simply practice something. You have to allow time to pass for the brain to encode the new skill.

By measuring the blood flow patterns in the brain, the scientists determined that it takes five to six hours for the memory of a new skill to move from temporary storage site in the front of the brain to permanent storage at the back.

During those six hours there is a window of vulnerability when memory of the new skill can be easily eroded if the person attempts to learn a second new skill.

If you were performing a piano piece for the first time and then immediately started practicing something else, then, that will cause problems in retention of the initial piece that you practiced”, said Holcomb.

It would be better, he said, if the first practice session was followed by five to six hours of routine activity that required no new learning.

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