In a recent study from the University of Texas at Dallas, Dr. Michael Kilgard’s lab questions the tidy relationship between altered size and enhanced skill. Studying the auditory cortex of rats, they found that the expansion of a ‘skill-specific’ brain area with training is only short lived, even when changes in ability are long lasting. Instead of working like a muscle, where training adds size and size begets prowess, learning seems to involve some heavy duty trimming as well. In fact, if Kilgard’s theory of learning holds up, both the biology of learning and our experience of it share a common principle: skill must be culled from a string of mistakes. Lots of them.
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