Whenever we have to perform complex actions such as dancing, playing the piano or tying our shoes, our brain compresses and decompresses information relating to the timing and order of the movements to be performed, probably to allow for more flexible and appropriate execution. of the moment.
This is demonstrated by a study conducted by the University of Birmingham and the University of Bangor in the United Kingdom.
The results, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, may be useful for improving rehabilitation techniques for stroke patients.
“From handwriting to playing a musical instrument, executing movement sequences from memory is a hallmark of human behaviour,” explains Katja Kornysheva of the University of Birmingham. “What is surprising is that the brain separates these skills into their building blocks rather than encoding them as built-in muscle memory, even after a long workout.
Information is retrieved uncompressed from memory when we prepare it for execution, then compressed together to initiate the action.
Perhaps - speculates the researcher - this decompression mechanism helps us remain flexible to adapt, even in the last hundreds of milliseconds before starting the movement, for example if we need to change the speed or timing of a
The researchers came to this conclusion after having subjected the brains of some right-handed volunteers to functional magnetic resonance imaging who had been asked to learn four sequences of notes on the piano.
"They were quicker to learn sequences with a new key order when they were familiar with the timing, while they struggled to learn sequences when having to pair a rehearsed order with new tempos. Probably," concludes lead author Rhys Yewbrey of the research. 'Bangor University - timing control that remains active during the action allows flexibility even after the movement has started.