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Overlearning hyperstabilizes a skill by rapidly making neurochemical processing inhibitory-dominant

Nature Neuroscience volume 20, pages 470475 (2017) | Download Citation

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 26 September 2017

Abstract

Overlearning refers to the continued training of a skill after performance improvement has plateaued. Whether overlearning is beneficial is a question in our daily lives that has never been clearly answered. Here we report a new important role: overlearning in humans abruptly changes neurochemical processing, to hyperstabilize and protect trained perceptual learning from subsequent new learning. Usually, learning immediately after training is so unstable that it can be disrupted by subsequent new learning until after passive stabilization occurs hours later. However, overlearning so rapidly and strongly stabilizes the learning state that it not only becomes resilient against, but also disrupts, subsequent new learning. Such hyperstabilization is associated with an abrupt shift from glutamate-dominant excitatory to GABA-dominant inhibitory processing in early visual areas. Hyperstabilization contrasts with passive and slower stabilization, which is associated with a mere reduction of excitatory dominance to baseline levels. Using hyperstabilization may lead to efficient learning paradigms.

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Change history

  • Corrected online 18 September 2017

    In the version of this article initially published, NIH grant R01EY019466 was missing from grants to T.W. in the Acknowledgments. The error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Berard, J. Dobres, M. Nassar, D. Rahnev and E. Robertson for their important comments on early drafts. This work was supported by NIH R01 EY015980 and R01EY019466 (to T.W.), NSF BCS 1539717 (to Y.S.) and JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 16H06857 (to K.S.). L.-H.C. was supported by MOST (104-2410-H-010-001-MY2, 105-2420-H-010-002-MY2), NYMU Aging and Health Research Center and Yen Tjing Ling Medical Foundation.

Author information

Author notes

    • Ji Won Bang
    • , Maro G Machizawa
    •  & Li-Hung Chang

    Present addresses: Cognition & Brain Science, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA (J.W.B.), Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan (M.G.M.) and Education Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan (L.-H.C.).

Affiliations

  1. Department of Cognitive, Linguistics, & Psychological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

    • Kazuhisa Shibata
    • , Yuka Sasaki
    • , Ji Won Bang
    • , Maro G Machizawa
    • , Masako Tamaki
    • , Li-Hung Chang
    •  & Takeo Watanabe
  2. Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan.

    • Kazuhisa Shibata
  3. Department of Neuroscience, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

    • Edward G Walsh

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Contributions

K.S., Y.S., E.G.W., M.G.M., M.T. and T.W. designed the experiments. K.S., J.W.B., M.G.M., M.T. and L.-H.C. conducted the experiments. K.S., E.G.W., M.T. and M.G.M. analyzed data. K.S., Y.S., J.W.B., E.G.W. and T.W. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Takeo Watanabe.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4490