On the Road to Automatic: Dynamic Aspects in the Development of Expertise

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One of the important steps on the road to becoming expert in a motor skill occurs when the individual can perform the movements in a seemingly effortless and automatic fashion. The authors review two lines of investigations, namely, fMRI and mathematically guided studies of the dynamics of skill acquisition, that suggest that this road to automatic involves two steps: (1) an increasing reliance on the self-regulatory aspects of the motor task, and (2) a minimization of the role of mechanisms based on intentionally directed corrective movements. The interplay between these two mechanisms implies that, at a given skill level, performance decreases whenever intention intervenes. The observation that psychological factors may be as important as mechanical repetition for the development of expertise has important implications for the design of neurorehabilitative strategies.

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