Age-Related Differences in Motor Skill Transfer with Brief Memory Reactivation

Kylie B. Tomlin, Brian P. Johnson, Kelly P. Westlake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motor memories can be strengthened through online practice and offline consolidation. Offline consolidation involves the stabilization of memory traces in post-practice periods. Following initial consolidation of a motor memory, subsequent practice of the motor skill can lead to reactivation and reconsolidation of the memory trace. The length of motor memory reactivation may influence motor learning outcomes; for example, brief, as opposed to long, practice of a previously learned motor skill appears to optimize intermanual transfer in healthy young adults. However, the influence of aging on reactivation-based motor learning has been scarcely explored. Here, the effects of brief and long motor memory reactivation schedules on the retention and intermanual transfer of a visuomotor tracing task are explored in healthy older adults. Forty older adults practiced a virtual star-tracing task either three (“brief reactivation”) or ten (“long reactivation”) times per session over a two-week period. Comparison with a previously reported group of younger adults revealed significant age-related differences in the effect of the motor memory reactivation schedule on the intermanual transfer of the motor task. In older adults, unlike younger adults, no significant between-group differences were found by practice condition in the speed, accuracy, or skill of intermanual task transfer. That is, motor task transfer in healthy younger, but not older, adults appears to benefit from brief memory reactivation. These results support the use of age-specific motor training approaches and may inform motor practice scheduling, with possible implications for physical rehabilitation, sport, and music.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • aging
  • intermanual transfer
  • memory
  • memory reactivation
  • motor learning
  • motor skills


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