Human learning is an active and complex process. However, the brain mechanisms underlying human skill learning and the effect of learning on the communication between brain regions, at different frequency bands, are still largely unknown. Here, we tracked changes in large-scale electrophysiological networks over a 6-week training period during which participants practiced a series of motor sequences during 30 home training sessions. Our findings showed that brain networks become more flexible with learning in all the frequency bands from theta to gamma ranges. We found consistent increase of flexibility in the prefrontal and limbic areas in the theta and alpha band, and over somatomotor and visual areas in the alpha band. Specific to the beta rhythm, we revealed that higher flexibility of prefrontal regions during the early stage of learning strongly correlated with better performance measured during home training sessions. Our findings provide novel evidence that prolonged motor skill practice results in higher, frequency-specific, temporal variability in brain network structure.
We investigated the large-scale organization of electrophysiological brain networks of a cohort of 30 participants practicing a series of motor sequences during 6 weeks of training. With learning, we observed a progressive modulation of the dynamics of prefrontal and limbic regions from theta to alpha frequencies, and of centro-parietal and occipital regions within visuomotor networks in the alpha band. In addition, higher prefrontal regional flexibility during early practice correlated with learning occurring during the 6 weeks of training. This provides novel evidence of a frequency-specific reorganization of brain networks with prolonged motor skill learning and an important neural basis for noninvasive research into the role of cortical functional interactions in (visuo)motor learning.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Handling Editor: Cornelis Jan Stam