What’s This Research About?

To determine whether older adults benefit from random order practice or
blocked practice when learning a complex, bimanual task.

Retention of a learned skill is affected by how we practice. Older adults may
experience a loss of performance levels during various motor tasks; in order to
regain those skills, it is necessary to practice in an effective way that allows for
retention. Contextual interference (CI) is a method used to improve retention
by practicing task variants in a random order. This is in contrast to practicing
the same variant repeatedly, or through blocked practice. CI is an effective way
to learn and retain simple motor tasks; however, whether CI is effective for more
complex tasks is unclear. Little research has been done to answer whether older
adults benefit from CI as a practice method for learning complex tasks.

Suggested hypothesis: It has been demonstrated random practice leads to better
skill persistence in both high and low complexity task variants; as a result, the
authors hypothesize random practice will lead to better skill persistence in low
and high complexity task variants in both young and old adults.

About The Author


Jenn Pilotti

TITLE: Challenge to promote change: both young and older adults benefit from contextual interference 


PUBLICATION: Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience

DATE: August 2015

AUTHORS : Lisa Pauwels, Kathleen Vancleef, Stephan P. Swinnen, and Iseult A.M. Beets

Motor learning: A set of processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in movement capability.

Blocked practice:  when a learner performs a single skill over and over, with repetition being the key. Variance in training is minimized or nonexistent. The learner then moves on to practice another discrete skill in the same way.

Contextual Interference Effect (CI effect):  The learning benefit that results from practicing task variants in a random practice order.

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