How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! And a study published June 8, 2021, in Cell Reports shows that taking short breaks between practice sessions is also essential to mastering a new skill. In the study, right-handed volunteers agreed to use their left hand to tap out on a keypad a series of six numbers shown to them on a computer screen. Participants tapped the numbers as quickly as they could for 10 seconds, followed by 10-second rest breaks, for a total of 36 training-and-rest periods. Brain waves recorded during the experiments revealed that the brain was rapidly replaying the keypad task dozens of times during breaks. The more the brain did this instant replay — and the faster — the better people performed during practice sessions. Staying mentally engaged helps keep your mind and memory strong. So when taking on new mental challenges — whether you’re mastering a physical skill like golf or learning a new language — remember that periods of focused study or practice mixed with rest will boost your proficiency better than marathon sessions.
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