Emily Oby’s work investigating the formation of new neural activity patterns during long-term learning was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). From the article:
Consider a skill you would like to learn, like playing the piano. How do you progress from “Chopsticks” to Chopin? As you learn to do something new with your hands, does the brain also do something new? We found that monkeys learned new skilled behavior by generating new neural activity patterns. We used a brain–computer interface (BCI), which directly links neural activity to movement of a computer cursor, to encourage animals to generate new neural activity patterns. Over several days, the animals began to exhibit new patterns of neural activity that enabled them to control the BCI cursor. This suggests that learning to play the piano and other skills might also involve the generation of new neural activity patterns.
These experiments were incredibly to conduct, involving training animals to perform a difficult brain-computer interface task across multiple days. Kudos to her for all of the hard work!
The full article is available here:
Oby, E. R., Golub, M. D., Hennig, J. A., Degenhart, A. D., Tyler-Kabara, E. C., Yu, B. M., Chase, S. M., Batista, A. B. New neural activity patterns emerge with long-term learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), (2019).