As humans acquire skills there are dramatic changes in brain activity that complement the profound changes in processing speed and effort seen in behavioral data. These changes involve learning, developing new representations, strategy shifts, and use of wider cues and approaches. Experts differ from novices in terms of their knowledge, effort, recognition, analysis, strategy, memory use, and monitoring (e.g., see Chi, Chapter 2; Feltovich, Prietula, & Ericsson, Chapter 4). In the last decade, there have be major advances in our ability to noninvasively track human brain activity. There are now over a hundred experiments tracking learning or expert performance. Patterns are beginning to emerge that show that learning and skilled performance produce changes in brain activation – and different types of changes – depending on the brain structure and the nature of the skill being learned.
In this chapter, we will review the changes that occur in the brain as skill is acquired. We will detail the anatomy and processes involved. We will provide a brief summary of the methods employed. We will review the nature of learning of skills, resource utilization, and performance of experts. The reader who wishes to learn more details regarding these methods might examine a current introductory chapter (Schneider & Chein, 2003) or current textbooks of cognitive neuroscience (Gazzaniga, Ivry, & Mangun, 2002), brain imaging (Jezzard, Mathews, & Smith, 2001), and cognitive neuroscience modeling (O'Reilly & Munakata, 2000).