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Motor learning

Motor learning refers broadly to changes in an organism's movements that reflect changes in the structure and function of the nervous system. Motor learning occurs over varying timescales and degrees of complexity: humans learn to walk or talk over the course of years, but continue to adjust to changes in height, weight, strength etc. over their lifetimes. Motor learning enables animals to gain new skills, and improves the smoothness and accuracy of movements, in some cases by calibrating simple movements like reflexes. Motor learning research often considers variables that contribute to motor program formation (i.e., underlying skilled motor behaviour), sensitivity of error-detection processes, and strength of movement schemas (see motor program). Motor learning is "relatively permanent", as the capability to respond appropriately is acquired and retained. Temporary gains in performance during practice or in response to some perturbation are often termed motor adaptation, a transient form of learning. Neuroscience research on motor learning is concerned with which parts of the brain and spinal cord represent movements and motor programs and how the nervous system processes feedback to change the connectivity and synaptic strengths. At the behavioral level, research focuses on the design and effect of the main components driving motor learning, i.e. the structure of practice and the feedback. The timing and organization of practice can influence information retention, e.g. how tasks can be subdivided and practiced (also see varied practice), and the precise form of feedback can influence preparation, anticipation, and guidance of movement.

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