According to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, the implementation of physical exercise could improve motor skill learning among healthy people through direct changes in neurotransmission.
The study, published in Nature Communications, compared the brains of rodents who took part in sessions of aerobic exercise.
For the rodents studied, initiating a routine of wheel running for just one week increased the acquisition of motor skills among healthy adult participants. “One week of running also induces switching from acetylcholine (ACh) to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) expression in neurons in the caudal pedunculopontine nucleus,” the co-authors stated in the findings.
The switching of neurotransmission from ACh to GABA was examined using molecular tools, which inhibited the transmitter switch caused by physical exercise. The end result was that motor skill learning in rodents was inhibited.
During their exercise sessions, researchers also noticed that the rodents learned numerous, particular motor skills that the non-exercised group did not.
“Consistent with regulation of motor skills, we show that the switching neurons make projections to the substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area and ventrolateral-ventromedial nuclei of the thalamus. Use of viral vectors to override transmitter switching blocks the beneficial effect of running on motor skill learning,” the study found.
“We suggest that neurotransmitter switching provides the basis by which sustained running benefits motor skill learning, presenting a target for clinical treatment of movement disorders.”
The new findings shine a new spotlight on our ability to improve in certain tasks requiring motor skills, giving us a better understanding of how the skills are learned.
“This study provides new insight into how we get good at things that require motor skills and provides information about how these skills are actually learned,” said Nick Spitzer, co-author of the study.