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

Shibata, K., Sasaki, Y., Bang, J. W., Walsh, E. G., Machizawa, M. G., Tamaki, M., ... & Watanabe, T. (2017). Overlearning hyperstabilizes a skill by rapidly making neurochemical processing inhibitory-dominant. Nature Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1038/nn.4490

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.

Keywords: Learning and memory; Psychology; Sensory processing; Visual system

See also Psypost article about this study: "Study: Practice makes perfect, and ‘overlearning’ locks it in"