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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

November 2018, Vol. 30, No. 11, Pages 1657-1682
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01309)
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Efficacy of Auditory versus Motor Learning for Skilled and Novice Performers
Article PDF (2.62 MB)
Humans must learn a variety of sensorimotor skills, yet the relative contributions of sensory and motor information to skill acquisition remain unclear. Here we compare the behavioral and neural contributions of perceptual learning to that of motor learning, and we test whether these contributions depend on the expertise of the learner. Pianists and nonmusicians learned to perform novel melodies on a piano during fMRI scanning in four learning conditions: listening (auditory learning), performing without auditory feedback (motor learning), performing with auditory feedback (auditory–motor learning), or observing visual cues without performing or listening (cue-only learning). Visual cues were present in every learning condition and consisted of musical notation for pianists and spatial cues for nonmusicians. Melodies were performed from memory with no visual cues and with auditory feedback (recall) five times during learning. Pianists showed greater improvements in pitch and rhythm accuracy at recall during auditory learning compared with motor learning. Nonmusicians demonstrated greater rhythm improvements at recall during auditory learning compared with all other learning conditions. Pianists showed greater primary motor response at recall during auditory learning compared with motor learning, and response in this region during auditory learning correlated with pitch accuracy at recall and with auditory–premotor network response during auditory learning. Nonmusicians showed greater inferior parietal response during auditory compared with auditory–motor learning, and response in this region correlated with pitch accuracy at recall. Results suggest an advantage for perceptual learning compared with motor learning that is both general and expertise-dependent. This advantage is hypothesized to depend on feedforward motor control systems that can be used during learning to transform sensory information into motor production.