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Human Brain & Learning Laboratory and Motor Skills and Motor Disabilities Laboratory

Head: Prof. Avi Karni

Human Brain & Learning Laboratory and Motor Skills and Motor Disabilities Laboratory
Prof. Avi Karni, his team's and students' research:
Since the academic year 2012, Prof. Karni and his team have been studying diurnal (time of day) and sleep effects on the acquisition of procedural knowledge and the effects of pharmacological agents (e.g., stimulants) on memory consolidation in young adults with ADHD. Another project, work in progress, addresses the effects of observation and imitation on the acquisition of motor skill. They are setting up a program of multi-national research which is funded by the European Community (ERA-NET Neuron) to study motor rehabilitation protocols in the elderly and in patients who have suffered a stroke that causes motor disability (apraxia). Prof. Karni and his team are in the process of summing up and publishing their results in a project addressing the acquisition and maintenance of non-volitional skills of balance and posture control. These results show that non-volitional skills can be acquired and retained in long-term memory in a manner similar to that of volitional, manual, skills. A parallel study which is now in press suggests that balance learning mechanisms are effective, yet atypical, in young adults with developmental learning disabilities. They also address the acquisition of language skills, specifically the ability to apply morpho-phonological language rules in a fluent and accurate manner. Their results suggest that there may be no inherent childhood advantage in the acquisition of linguistic skills compared to young adults. Moreover, some maturation-dependant advantages in the acquisition of linguistic skill were noted. In addition to challenging a commonly assumed notion that procedural ("how-to") memory in children is superior to that of adults, their results raise the possibility that language skills can be significantly strengthened through practice protocols in adulthood, thus increasing the available time window for remediation. However Prof. Karni and his team are finding differences in memory consolidation and susceptibility to interference by previous linguistic experience in adulthood as compared to childhood. Children seem less selective in language acquisition.

Prof. Karni is currently supervising 12 Master's and 11 Doctoral students.