Defined Words: motor center, muscle memory, dexterity
Do you remember learning how to throw a ball, or ride a bike, or type on a keyboard? Do you remember how slowly you had to go through the motions the first time? Now you can probably do it with a lot more ease, maybe without even thinking about it!
Your muscle movements are controlled by the motor center and it works like every other part of your brain. Just like visual or scent information, the observed reactions of muscles to stimulation can be recorded in memory neurons. If you practice moving your fingers in a pattern to spell out words, you will develop the memory that “moving this finger here makes a W.” With enough practice, the memory neuron becomes solidified and you remember how to type a W by moving your finger. This specific type of memory is called muscle memory.
Just like with other types of memory, further solidification can allow the neural path to activate without the consciousness, called automation. Solidification of specific neurons can allow for the brain to differentiate very subtle movements of the body. The ability to control specific muscles among a larger group is called dexterity. Similar to other memory, motor memory susceptible to forgetting with the same rules: use it or lose it.
Individuals that don’t utilize their dexterity might lose the conscious connection with those muscles and instead rely on just a few others to compensate. The overcompensating muscles become overly stressed and the neural paths stimulating them signal to just always be activated. This makes for poor posture to become automated and leaves some muscles flabby and unused while others become tight and stiff, not a good combination.
While it does take conscious intervention in order to initially solidify a neural path, sufficient solidification can remove the need for consciousness to be present. Professional athletes can tell you that they don’t think about their movements when competing, they just “let the game come to them.” Their muscles are already trained so they can keep their consciousness in the strategy of the game. Experienced drivers feel “one with the road” because they feel like they don’t have to think about driving. They are right, but it’s not the road they’re one with, it’s their solidified neural paths.
Something I have personally struggled with and a problem that pervades much of our society is poor posture. Your muscles adapt to perform tasks that you do regularly. We now spend a lot of time sitting down staring forward or down at screens.
Our legs become automated to tightly hold the hamstrings and hips. Our necks and arms have become automated to pull forward because we lean back in comfy chairs. We are confusing our bodies by giving up on important muscle groups and then compensating by tightening others. If you want to breathe better, get rid of your belly, stand up taller and become more flexible be mindful of your posture.
Learning how your muscle memory is formed, solidified, and forgotten gives you the tools to change your own body. Your body, after all, is just a tool for your brain to use in order to survive. Spend some time with your body, determine your forgotten areas and rediscover them. Find the overly tight muscles and massage them to relax. You have the ability to mold your body into whatever you want it to be, it only takes patience and your willingness to use your Powers.