Short- and Long-Term Changes in Attention, Memory and Brain Activity Following Exercise, Motor Learning, and Expertise
Di Nota, Paula Maria
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How humans perceive, embody, and execute actions has been an area of intense study in cognitive neuroscience, and these investigations shed light on how we adaptively learn from and interact with an ever-changing world. All of the knowledge associated with action, including sensorimotor representations, the words we use to describe them, and the memories that store this information, are represented in distributed brain regions that comprise knowledge schemas. With repeated practice or training, one can acquire a highly specialized motor repertoire that fosters even more efficient and adaptable behaviour to achieve peak performance. Using behavioural, EEG and fMRI approaches, I will present a series of investigations that evaluate the impact of short-term exercise and long-term dance practice on the development of expert knowledge schemas. In Chapters 2 and 3, I will demonstrate that activating one domain in the schema (e.g., action processing) will prime other domains (e.g., verbal attention and working memory) to induce translational performance improvements. Subsequent chapters will reveal how familiarity with a specific genre of dance influences behavioural (Chapter 3) and neurophysiological signatures of action perception, how these motor representations are coded in sensorimotor association areas (Chapters 4), and how they change with repeated practice and performance (Chapter 5). How these findings contribute to our model of expert knowledge schemas will be discussed in Chapter 6. These findings bear efficacy for the therapeutic application of exercise and dance programs to alleviate motor, cognitive and neurophysiological impairments in several clinical populations, including people with Parkinsons disease.