What does it take to master a skill? Helsen et al. (1998) suggested that for an athlete to reach a world-class level of performance at least 4000 hours need to be invested into deliberate practice. Ericsson (1990) takes it even further than that by putting forward a figure of 10000 hours (20 hours x 50 weeks / year x 10 years) to master any kind of skill.
We’re going to leave the question of how a person’s body changes with the skill acquisition for the purposes of this post and look deeper into what happens to a person’s brain. Beilock (2011) hypothesized that as a person moves along the stages of skill mastering from being a novice to becoming an expert, the skill-related knowledge is gradually migrating from working memory localized in a pre-frontal cortex to procedural memory occupying sensorimotor regions. In fact, existing neuroscience research reveals strong evidence for neuroplasticity caused by the deliberate practice. It is now evident that wide structural and physiological changes are happening in both abovementioned areas when extensive training is applied (see, for example, Draganski et al., 2004).