Pairing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with motor skill acquisition may improve learning of some implicit motor sequences (albeit with some variability), but it is unclear if HIIT enhances explicit learning of motor sequences. We asked whether a single bout of HIIT after non-musicians learned to play a piano melody promoted better retention of the melody than low-intensity interval training (LIIT). Further, we investigated whether HIIT facilitated transfer of learning to a new melody. We generated individualized exercise protocols by having participants (n = 25) with little musical training undergo a graded maximal exercise test (GXT) to determine their cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2peak) and maximum power output (Wmax). In a subsequent session, participants practiced a piano melody (skill acquisition) and were randomly assigned to a single bout of HIIT or LIIT. Retention of the piano melody was tested 1 hour, 1 day, and 1 week after skill acquisition. We also evaluated transfer to learning a new melody 1 week after acquisition. Pitch and rhythm accuracy were analyzed with linear mixed-effects modeling. HIIT did not enhance sequence-specific retention of pitch or rhythmic elements of the piano melody, but there was modest evidence that HIIT facilitated transfer to learning a new melody. We tentatively conclude that HIIT enhances explicit, task-general motor consolidation.
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