Neuroscience

Savings and Acquisitions

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Science  08 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5523, pp. 1799
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5523.1799a

Having learned to ride as a child, even a sedentary adult can hop on a bicycle and pedal away without much practice. This phenomenon of rapid reacquisition of a motor skill is described in scientific terms as savings.

In a combined experimental and computer simulation study, Medina et al. analyzed the mechanisms underlying the savings observed in rabbits prompted to close their eyelids, a type of learning known to involve cerebellar pathways. In a typical Pavlovian paradigm, conditioned responses developed in the acquisition phase. During a subsequent period of extinction training, normal conditioned responses disappeared; however, a residual plasticity persisted for over 6 weeks and contributed to the savings during the reacquisition phase. The rate of reacquisition correlated with the magnitude of short-latency responses during the last extinction session before relearning. Pharmacological blockade that disconnected the cerebellar cortex confirmed the predictions of the computer simulation and indicated that the location of plasticity might be in the cerebellar interpositus nucleus. — PRS

J. Neurosci. 21, 4081 (2001).

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