‘Overlearning’ Helps Lock in New Skills

[From the Boston Globe:]

Musicians often play the same piece of music over and over, long past the point of mastery. Researchers debate whether there is any benefit to “overlearning” a skill in that way.

Now, CLPS researchers suggest there is a previously unknown benefit to continuing to train after one’s performance has plateaued: Even just 20 minutes of overlearning locks in a new skill, shielding it from being overwritten by other information.

“If you’d like to learn something very important, then you can protect that from being disrupted by new learning,” says study coauthor Takeo Watanabe, who studies vision and learning. But be warned, he notes: Because overlearning blocks subsequent learning, it may prevent you from learning a series of similar things in rapid succession.

The work was published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.