Why one way of learning is better than another

October 1, 2009,

A new study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University reveals that different patterns of training and learning lead to different types of memory formation. The significance of the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is that it identifies the molecular differences between spaced training (distributed over time) and massed training (at very short intervals), shedding light on brain function and guiding learning and training principles.

In every organism studied, results have shown that memory formation is highly sensitive not only to the total amount of training, but also to the pattern of trials used during training. In particular, trials distributed over time are superior at generating long-term memories than trials presented at very short intervals.

"It is a well known psychological principle that learning is better when training trials are spaced out than when given all together," says Dr. Wayne Sossin, neuroscientist at The Neuro and lead investigator of the study. "However, there are very few, if any studies that identify, at the molecular level, differences between the two types of training."

"In this study, using Aplysia, a type of mollusk often used as a model of learning in which the difference between spaced and massed training has been well established, we identify an event, the activation of the enzyme called Apl II (PKC Apl II), which is very different under the two training paradigms and could explain the differences in learning.

The process of strengthening communication between nerve cells (neurons), called synaptic facilitation, represents learning and is the basis of change in learning in Aplysia. This process is controlled by the release of a called . Four to five spaced applications of serotonin generate long-term changes in the strength of the synapse - the junction between two neurons - but in this study lead to less activation of PKC Apl II. This leads to stronger connections between neurons and therefore increased learning and memory. In contrast, if the application of serotonin is continuous, as would be the case in massed /training, the researchers found that there was much more activation of PKC Apl II, suggesting that activation of this enzyme may block the mechanisms for generating long-term memory, while retaining mechanisms for short-term memory.

This study shows that the enzyme PKC Apl II is regulated differently by spaced versus massed applications of serotonin and that the difference in activation of PKC Apl II can explain some of the distinction between spaced and massed training.

Source: McGill University (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Electrical implant reduces 'invisible' symptoms of man's spinal cord injury

February 19, 2018
An experimental treatment that sends electrical currents through the spinal cord has improved "invisible" yet debilitating side effects for a B.C. man with a spinal cord injury.

Brainwaves show how exercising to music bends your mind

February 18, 2018
Headphones are a standard sight in gyms and we've long known research shows listening to tunes can be a game-changer for your run or workout.

To sleep, perchance to forget

February 17, 2018
The debate in sleep science has gone on for a generation. People and other animals sicken and die if they are deprived of sleep, but why is sleep so essential?

Newborn babies who suffered stroke regain language function in opposite side of brain

February 17, 2018
It's not rare that a baby experiences a stroke around the time it is born. Birth is hard on the brain, as is the change in blood circulation from the mother to the neonate. At least 1 in 4,000 babies are affected shortly ...

Lab-grown human cerebellar cells yield clues to autism

February 16, 2018
Increasing evidence has linked autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with dysfunction of the brain's cerebellum, but the details have been unclear. In a new study, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital used stem cell technology ...

Fragile X syndrome neurons can be restored, study shows

February 16, 2018
Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent cause of intellectual disability in males, affecting one out of every 3,600 boys born. The syndrome can also cause autistic traits, such as social and communication deficits, as well ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.