Procedural skills

Overnight improvements in memory for time

Learning new skills doesn’t depend only upon practice. Many skills improve gradually over time, and a key component of this improvement occurs during sleep. This means one may learn a skill, like playing a piece on the piano, to a certain level one day and then find one’s performance noticeably improved overnight. Important new discoveries about which skills improve with sleep and how such consolidation occurs in the brain have brought this field to the forefront of neuroscientific enquiry. These findings are critical to our understanding of learning and to the development of optimal training strategies.

Our research has recently extended knowledge of sleep dependent consolidation into a new domain by showing that temporal skills such as tapping a rhythm can consolidated during sleep. Currently, we are building on these findings at two different levels. Behaviourally, we aim to characterise temporal consolidation and determine whether it occurs for both movement timing and perceptual timing. Neurally, we aim to characterise the network of brain activity involved in these tasks, show how its function is altered by sleep, and determine how these alterations differ for movement timing and perceptual timing.