Consciousness and the consolidation of motor learning
Behavioural Brain Research
Volume 196, Issue 2, 23 January 2009, Pages 180-186

Copyright © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Consciousness and the consolidation of motor learning

Sunbin Song Corresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Author

aInterdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Georgetown University, 3700 O Street NW, Washington, DC 20057, USA

Received 5 August 2008;
revised 26 September 2008;
accepted 29 September 2008.
Available online 8 October 2008.


It is no secret that motor learning benefits from repetition. For example, pianists devote countless hours to performing complicated sequences of key presses, and golfers practice their swings thousands of times to reach a level of proficiency. Interestingly, the subsequent waking and sleeping hours after practice also play important roles in motor learning. During this time, a motor skill can consolidate into a more stable form that can lead to improved future performance without intervening practice. Though it is widely believed that sleep is crucial for this consolidation of motor learning, this is not generally true. In many instances only day-time consolidates motor learning, while in other instances neither day-time nor sleep consolidates learning. Recent studies have suggested that conscious awareness during motor training can determine whether sleep or day-time plays a role in consolidation. However, ongoing studies suggest that this explanation is also incomplete. In addition to conscious awareness, attention is an important factor to consider. This review discusses how attention and conscious awareness interact with day and night processes to consolidate a motor memory.

Keywords: Consciousness; Consolidation; Motor learning; Procedural; Sleep; Offline; Attention

Article Outline

1. Introduction
2. Procedural and declarative learning: the grey line of consciousness
3. Off-line consolidation of motor learning

3.1. Motor consolidation as off-line enhancement
3.2. Motor consolidation as off-line stabilization

4. Explicit/implicit interactions in motor learning and performance
5. Conclusion

Corresponding Author Contact InformationTel.: +1 202 687 4099 fax: +1 202 687 6050.
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