Learning new motor skills, such as taking up a sport or practicing a new musical instrument is a central part of our daily lives. However, there are still fundamental gaps in our understanding of the neuroplastic mechanisms that underpin skill acquisition. Filling these gaps is vital not only for understanding skill acquisition in health, but also in studying reacquisition of skills in the chronic stages of recovery after brain injury such as a stroke.
This is perhaps a uniquely complex question, as plastic changes in the brain occur across a vast range of spatial and temporal scales: from synapses, to cells, to intra-regional, and inter-regional changes, underpinned by mechanisms playing out from minutes to hours, days and months to years. Studying and linking changes across all these spatial and temporal scales is vital if we are to truly understand brain plasticity. However, in humans, available imaging approaches are necessarily indirect and often non-specific.
Here, I will describe a series of experiments using multimodal brain imaging and non-invasive brain stimulation approaches to go beyond correlational studies to explore the physiological basis of a number of imaging metrics, including long-range functional connectivity; local cortical organisation; as well as the role of local oscillatory activity in functional connectivity and plasticity.