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[Supertraining] Sleep enhances memory for motor skills carruthersjam Thu Nov 19 13:00:30 2009

The below may be of interest:

Learning by observation requires an early sleep window
Ysbrand D. Van Der Werfa,b,1, Els Van Der Helma, Menno M. Schoonheima, Arne 
Ridderikhoffc and Eus J. W. Van Somerena,b 
+ Author Affiliations


Numerous studies have shown that sleep enhances memory for motor skills learned 
through practice. Motor skills can, however, also be learned through 
observation, a process possibly involving the mirror neuron system. 

We investigated whether motor skill enhancement through prior observation 
requires sleep to follow the observation, either immediately or after a delay, 
to consolidate the procedural memory. Sequence-specific fingertapping 
performance was tested in 64 healthy subjects in a balanced design. 
Electromyography verified absence of overt or subliminal hand muscle 
activations during observation. The results show that immediate sleep is 
necessary for the enhancement of a motor skill through prior observation. 
Immediate sleep improved the speed of subsequent performance by 22 ± 11% (mean 
± SEM) (P = 0.04) and reduced the error rate by 42 ± 19% (P = 0.02). In 
contrast, no performance gains occurred if sleep was initiated more than 12 h 
after observation. A second study on 64 subjects ruled out explicit familiarity 
with the sequence or the spatiotemporal rhythm of the sequence to underlie 
performance improvements. The sleep-dependent observational motor learning 
enhancement is at least similar to that previously reported for implicit and 
declarative memory. The apparent prerequisite of observing real movements 
indicates that subjects transfer experience obtained through observation of 
movements to subsequent self-initiated movements, in the absence of practice. 

Moreover, the consolidation of this transfer requires an early sleep window. 
These findings could improve learning new motor skills in athletes and 
children, but also in patients having to remaster skills following stroke or 

Jamie Carruthers
Wakefield, UK