Here's a video of a guy learning to ride a "backwards bike", if you turn the handles left, then the wheel goes right. It took the guy forever to learn to ride a backward bike. He kept remarking that "any disturbance would make is brain switch back to the old 'normal' bike control system".
Later in the video, he did something amazing. He tried to ride a normal bike and apparently no longer could. Then after about 20 minutes worth of trying and failing utterly, suddenly the understanding of a normal bike snapped back into his mind, and in the span of about 30 seconds he could ride the bike easily. How did that sudden change happen? What state was his mind in that he couldn't reach back to the old system? And then what suddenly happened so that he was able to?
More generally, is there any research in this area? I think it would be awesome to hook up an EEG to someone and watch as they make this mental leap from one control system to another. Has this ever been done?
Note here (because there appears to be some confusion) that I'm not so much interested in brain plasticity or negative transfer. Those are interesting in their own right, but for this question I'm most interested in the "switch back" phenomenon. Why was the individual somehow blocked from reaching the normal bike control system, and how did this barrier so suddenly and so drastically disappear? Apparently there are now two systems in his brain, and they are somehow quarantined from one another. What mechanism makes this possible? And why would such a mechanism be beneficial?
I realize now that I have experienced the same phenomenon with language. I studied Spanish in high school and was pretty good at it. But after learning Japanese it's difficult to "jump" back into Spanish speaking mode. And if I'm in Spanish speaking mode it's hard to jump back to Spanish.