March 9, 2016 – Small Changes


Anchor lead:  Small changes in acquiring a new skill can lead to big learning, Elizabeth Tracey reports

If you’ve been trying to learn a new skill, say tennis or golf, you may want to change up your practice just a big to improve your learning.  That’s according to research by Pablo Celnik, director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues.

Celnik: People learn skills, if you introduce small variations, across practices, people learn more faster than if you just keep practicing the same thing over and over again.   ;12

Celnik says this observation is also important for rehabilitation.

Celnik: This is important for patients.  We work with patients to do some kind of physical exercise to regain function.  And using these subtle modifications may lead us to rehabilitate people even faster, so that’s why the concept is so important.   :12

Changes that help are very small and subtle, Celnik says, since the brain interprets big dramatic changes as actually learning an entirely new skill. He says it’s not known whether such a strategy would help with improvement of existing skills.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.