Long-term training for a motor task reduces the brain’s energy consumption for the associated task in monkeys, reports a study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience. These results suggest that skill learning is associated with more energetically efficient generation of neuronal activity needed for movement execution and planning.
Peter Strick and colleagues trained ten macaque monkeys over a period of one to six years in a hand-reaching task to press keys on a touchpad. The scientists found that when monkeys practiced the task for a prolonged time and became efficient at the motor task, performance of a motor task required less energy consumption in the primary motor cortex, the region of the brain responsible for movement generation. This reduction in energy consumption does not cause a decrease in neural activity, and is specific for movement generated without external reminders or cues.