When you hear people talk about muscle memory, what do they mean? Why is muscle memory important and how do you improve yours?
Our brains like repetition. As boring as it sounds, your brain really likes it when you do a task over and over and over again and it doesn't even care when you get it wrong.
Remember the days of learning to play the piano or shooting hoops in the back yard? That was muscle memory in action. You may have lost your temper in frustration at those musical scales or when you couldn't emulate your favorite NBA hero but your brain was having a great time .. you just didn't know it!
The neuroanatomy responsible for muscle memory includes the Cerebellum and specifically the medial temporal lobe. Progress in our first attempts of exercise and rehabilitation can often be very slow, our limbs stiff and uncoordinated. But as our brains begin to make sense of the patterns of muscle movements we become quicker, more agile, and limbs feel freer. Our brains continue to develop muscle memory whilst we repeat the task and our attention span becomes longer due to increased activity of the prefrontal and frontal cortices. In other words that old addage of 'The more you do, the more you can do' is absolutely right.
Strength training is an excellent way to enhance the motor neuron activity and it helps your
body to communicate between the nervous system and muscular system. Improving brain activity in this way is one of the reasons why people feel a natural 'high' after exercising.
Recent use of computers and keyboards at an early age have been shown to enhance children's fine motor skills. Due to the repetitive nature of these specific tasks, muscle memory is being activated thousands of times in a short space of time.
Practice not only makes perfect but it can also help to restore functions thought to be previously lost due to Stroke, illness or injury. The treatment of Alzheimer's patients can benefit from repetitive training and explains why doing the exercises your Physical Therapist gives you is really important.
Juggling is a great demonstration of muscle memory! Can you juggle? Show us your attempts and Share your Videos with us on our Facebook Page.