A Motor Theory of Learning

No Thumbnail Available
Durriseau, Jaymes Anthony
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
This study investigates the possible differences between learning English pseudowords that are presented with or without handwriting movements. Based on the previous literature showing the learning benefits of handwriting vs reading new words- and neurophysiological evidence that suggests a system of neurons (mirror neuron system) can encode observed actions and elicit analogous motor responses in the observer - it is hypothesized that pseudoword learning will be facilitated when they are presented with handwriting movements. To this end, during a learning phase, pseudowords were visually presented. Following the learning phase, participants performed a recall phase consisting of a forced-choice task on statically presented pseudowords. Half of the pseudowords were new, while the other half consisted of an equal number of pseudowords presented in a handwritten or static way during the learning phase. EEG was recorded during both learning and recall phases. Measurement of EEG mu suppression was used as an index of mirror neuron activity during the learning phase. A cluster-randomization procedure was used to compare changes in Mu suppression during Handwritten and Static conditions. It was predicted that handwritten pseudowords would elicit larger Mu suppression than Static pseudowords. During the recall phase, learning was assessed using behavioral data on the forced-choice task, as well as the N400 component as an index of word familiarity. Results showed significantly more Alpha suppression for the Handwritten condition during the learning phase. In the recall phase, the Static condition showed more alpha suppression. Results suggest the Handwritten condition demanded more attentional processes than the Static condition during the learning phase. Consequently, the Handwritten condition needed less semantic processes to complete the forced-choice task of the recall phase.
Alpha, Language, Learning, Mirror neuron, Mu