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



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 [14C]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.

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Figure 1: Activation during the Lick task.
Figure 2: Activation during the Track and Rem tasks.
Figure 3: Activation during the Random and Repeating tasks.
Figure 4: Comparison of activation measures in arm M1.
Figure 5: Single-neuron activity in a penetration through an area of high 2DG uptake (monkey N14).
Figure 6: Single-neuron activity in a penetration through an area of low 2DG uptake (monkey N14).
Figure 7: Relation between local average 2DG uptake and neuron activity.


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This material is based on work supported in part by the Office of Research and Development, Medical Research Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, US National Institutes of Health grants R01 NS24328 (P.L.S.), P30 NS076405 (P.L.S.) and P01 NS044393 (P.L.S.). The contents do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the US Government. We are grateful to M. Page for the development of computer programs, and to M. O'Malley and K. McDonald for their expert technical assistance.

Author information

N.P. conducted the 2DG experiments, Y.M. recorded single neuron activity, N.P. analyzed data, and N.P. and P.L.S. wrote the manuscript.

Correspondence to Peter L Strick.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Picard, N., Matsuzaka, Y. & Strick, P. Extended practice of a motor skill is associated with reduced metabolic activity in M1. Nat Neurosci 16, 1340–1347 (2013) doi:10.1038/nn.3477

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