Overlearning hyperstabilizes a skill by rapidly making neurochemical processing inhibitory-dominant

Kazuhisa Shibata, Yuka Sasaki, Ji Won Bang, Edward G. Walsh, Maro G. Machizawa, Masako Tamaki, Li Hung Chang, Takeo Watanabe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Overlearning refers to the continued training of a skill after performance improvement has plateaued. Whether overlearning is beneficial is a question in our daily lives that has never been clearly answered. Here we report a new important role: overlearning in humans abruptly changes neurochemical processing, to hyperstabilize and protect trained perceptual learning from subsequent new learning. Usually, learning immediately after training is so unstable that it can be disrupted by subsequent new learning until after passive stabilization occurs hours later. However, overlearning so rapidly and strongly stabilizes the learning state that it not only becomes resilient against, but also disrupts, subsequent new learning. Such hyperstabilization is associated with an abrupt shift from glutamate-dominant excitatory to GABA-dominant inhibitory processing in early visual areas. Hyperstabilization contrasts with passive and slower stabilization, which is associated with a mere reduction of excitatory dominance to baseline levels. Using hyperstabilization may lead to efficient learning paradigms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-475
Number of pages6
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 23 Feb 2017


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