Changes in electroencephalographic activity associated with learning a novel motor task

Jennifer L. Etnier, Scot S. Whitwer, Daniel M. Landers, Steven J Petruzzello, Walter Salazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study was designed to examine changes in EEG activity associated with the learning of a novel task. Right-handed adults (N = 61) were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. Subjects’ EEG was recorded at 10 sites. Subjects’ performance was assessed using 8-s trials on a mirror star trace. On the acquisition day, the experimental subjects performed 175 trials while the control subjects performed 10 trials, sat quietly for the amount of time needed to perform 155 trials, and then performed 10 more trials. On the retention day, all subjects performed 20 trials. There was a significant Group x Day x Trial interaction that showed that performance improved across trial blocks and across days; however, after the first 10 acquisition trials, the experimental subjects were always significantly better than the control subjects. Analysis of the EEG data showed a significant four-way interaction that showed that following the first 10 acquisition trials, the experimental subjects had more alpha activity than the control subjects. It is concluded that there are consistent EEG changes in the alpha band that are associated with learning a motor task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-279
Number of pages8
JournalResearch Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996



  • Motor learning
  • Spectral alpha

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Nephrology

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