Friday, December 5, 2008

Muscle Memory

Synchronicity strikes. I've been formulating a post in my mind about muscle memory, the trigger being the repeated realization that sometimes I misfinger notes on the horn because somewhere in my body/mind I think I'm playing the flute. And on the flute, the non-sequential notes like Eb and F# are my most difficult after years of playing the piano where everything is simply one after the other on up or down the scale.

In the NYT today there's an obituary of a man at the center of a lot of memory research, and here's a snip:
Scientists saw that there were at least two systems in the brain for creating new memories. One, known as declarative memory, records names, faces and new experiences and stores them until they are consciously retrieved. This system depends on the function of medial temporal areas, particularly an organ called the hippocampus, now the object of intense study.

Another system, commonly known as motor learning, is subconscious and depends on other brain systems. This explains why people can jump on a bike after years away from one and take the thing for a ride, or why they can pick up a guitar that they have not played in years and still remember how to strum it.

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