This great post is reblogged from Vivek Gupta – nanotechnologist.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Plymouth University have shown that follow-through — such as when swinging a golf club or tennis racket — can help us to learn two different skills at once, or to learn a single skill faster. The research provides new insight into the way tasks are learned, and could have implications for rehabilitation, such as re-learning motor skills following a stroke.
The researchers found that the particular motor memory which is active and modifiable in the brain at any given time depends on both lead-in and follow-through movement, and that skills which may otherwise interfere can be learned at the same time if their follow-through motions are unique. The research is published today (8 January) in the journal Current Biology.
While follow-through in sports such as tennis or golf cannot affect the movement of the ball after it has been hit, it does serve two important purposes: it both helps maximise velocity or force at the point of impact, and helps prevent injuries by allowing a gradual slowdown of a movement.
Now, researchers have found a third important role for follow-through: it allows distinct motor memories to be learned. In other words, by practising the same action with different follow-throughs, different motor memories can be learned for a single movement.
If a new task, whether that is serving a tennis ball or learning a passage on a musical instrument, is repeated enough times, a motor memory of that task is developed. The brain is able to store, protect and reactivate this memory, quickly instructing the muscles to perform the task so that it can be performed seemingly without thinking.