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I'm interested in one specific brain ability. I'll try to describe it.

Imagine that you are learning to play the guitar. You bought an instrument, self-teaching book and started to learn playing guitar. You do it regularly, but at one time you have no time/ability to play the guitar and you stop your training for month or two.

But when you start playing again, you notice that your technique is little bit worse but some things that you didn't understand or didn't do well earlier you can now do better. Why? Is there any brain background education? I heard that some successful people take a rest from their main occupation for some time. Where I can read about this thing?

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Really great question, and I have noticed the same effect on myself with mechanical skills, you give it a couple months off and you seem to come back better. – Vic Goldfeld Oct 19 '12 at 1:14
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Learning how to play a new musical instrument is an example of procedural memory. Not much is known about the exact process of procedural memory storage in our brain. The most common method of brain research is fMRI scans, but these scans only tell us which brain regions are involved in memory storage, and only very little about the exact functional relationships.

What we do know is that during the day, memories (procedural or otherwise) are stored in a temporary, relatively unstable form and that these memories are greatly consolidated only during sleep.

What this means is that if you acquire new skills by practicing your instrument, the immediate improvement you'll notice is relatively small, but after a good long sleep the new memories will have consolidated and your skill is improved to a much greater extent. Therefore, even if you don't feel like you're improving right away, or you find it hard to remember new patterns, you have to wait until the next day to really judge whether or not you've made any progress. I'm not sure, however, whether this process extends beyond one night. It seems doubtful to me that taking several months off would be more effective than consistent practice in terms of memory consolidation.

Of course, another factor could be stress relief, which can have profound effects on your ability to think and focus. Switching from a stressful lifestyle to a more relaxed one could have significant effects on your skill acquisition process.

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Have you looked into subconscious or unconscious learning? That would be my suggested starting point. Some ideas can take time to process and thus after some time another part of our identity resolves the issue.

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I'm not shure, but may be it is unconscious learning. Thanks. – Denys P. Dec 23 '11 at 23:48

I recommend the books, "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman and "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. This books might not talk about learning to play an instrument directly, but give you a good idea of how the brain works. Also, I think Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers" talks about music specifically however, his books tend to be short on scientific details.

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Yup, definitely recommend "Thinking Fast and Slow" if you want a crash course on how the brain works. – Muz Oct 19 '12 at 13:52

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