Practicing novel, praxis-like movements: Physiological effects of repetition

Joshua B. Ewen, Ajay S. Pillai, Danielle McAuliffe, Balaji M. Lakshmanan, Katarina Ament, Mark Hallett, Nathan E. Crone, Stewart H. Mostofsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our primary goal was to develop and validate a task that could provide evidence about how humans learn praxis gestures, such as those involving the use of tools. To that end, we created a video-based task in which subjects view a model performing novel, meaningless one-handed actions with kinematics similar to praxis gestures. Subjects then imitated the movements with their right hand. Trials were repeated six times to examine practice effects. EEG was recorded during the task. As a control, subjects watched videos of a model performing a well-established (over learned) tool-use gesture. These gestures were also imitated six times. Demonstrating convergent validity, EEG measures of task-related cortical activation were similar in topography and frequency between the novel gesture task and the overlearned, praxis gesture task. As in studies assessing motor skill learning with simpler tasks, cortical activation during novel gesture learning decreased as the same gestures were repeated. In the control condition, repetition of overlearned tool-use gestures were also associated with reductions in activation, though to a lesser degree. Given that even overlearned, praxis gestures show constriction of EEG activity with repetition, it is possible that that attentional effects drive some of the repetition effects seen in EEG measures of activation during novel gesture repetition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberFEB2016
StatePublished - Feb 5 2016


  • Attention
  • EEG
  • Event-related desynchronization
  • Gesture production
  • Motor learning
  • Praxis
  • Repetition suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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