Okay, welcome back to the Weedo NeedNoBoo Klarnin School of Hard Knocks Academy. I hope you all had a nice filling lunch of simple sugars, empty calories and trans-fatty acids so we can get right to work. So, let's get started talking about how to create more myelination in the motor nerves.
(But you said when we got back you'd talk about what goes into optimizing our practice for the creation of both a strong and a clear engram) Ah, yes....I did, didn't I? Okay, let's discuss that.
* We know that we want a strong
engram so that it is easier for the motor neurons to fire off that particular pattern compared to all the other random myriad ones it could be choosing, and therefore for the signal to be sent via the motor nerves to the appropriate muscles so that the body can initiate that particular physical movement more quickly and easily.
* We know that we want a clear
engram, i.e., one with higher resolution, so that the pattern itself is the same every time, and so that it will produce both finer amounts of detail in the physical movement as well as a greater consistency of movement each and every time the movement is performed.
So how do we go about optimizing both of those qualities in the engram we are creating for a given physical movement pattern? Well, for now at least, the strength of the engram is a matter of how much signal the motor cortex receives for that particular movement pattern. The greater the total volume of signal, the stronger the engram. As would be fairly intuitive, one way of providing a greater total volume of signal is through many, many repetitions of that signal. Kind of like filling a bucket one drop at a time. Eventually, it adds up. This is exactly why it is said that "repetition is the mother of all learning".
Another way of providing a greater total volume of signal for that engram is by increasing the strength of signal each time it is sent to the brain. Sort of like filling the bucket one drop at a time, only you're increasing the size of each drop. The bucket will fill up faster. So how do we increase the strength of the signal? Simple...just add more myelin to the myelin sheath around the associated motor nerves. Well that was easy, wasn't it? Next topic......
(But wait, but wait....how exactly do we add more myelin to that sheath? Isn't that the process you called myelination earlier?) Why yes, yes it is. And that's a very good question, if I do say so myself.
The biophysical and biochemical process of stimulating myelination are kinda....dry, really....and aren't strictly necessary in order to answer our question in a functional pragmatic way. Therefore, I'll leave that to the more ovoid-craniumed among you as an exercise on your own time and I'll suffice it to throw out one of those annoying QED's, or quod erat demonstrandums
, at the end that math teachers love and which are never obvious to anyone, not even the writer of the textbook.
We know from our discussion previously that myelination is stimulated by a) the physical performance of the movement pattern, and b) by activation of the corresponding engram for that movement pattern in the motor cortex of the brain. (Well, since they happen together, aren't a and b kind of the same thing?) Sometimes, but not always. As I mentioned earlier, "activation of that engram in the brain itself is a self-reinforcing thing, meaning that every time you activate that particular engram, it strengthens itself as a pattern. This holds true whether or not the corresponding physical movement pattern is actually produced." What we actually have is a situation in which every time the physical movement pattern is actually performed, the myelination is stimulated and the engram is further encoded by firing the corresponding motor neurons in the brain. However, it is possible to activate that engram by firing off the associated motor neurons in the motor cortex of the brain, but without actually performing the physical movement outwardly. And since activation of the engram is self-reinforcing, it further strengthens the encoding of that engram every time you do it.
(Extra-clever student: But what about the process of myelination? Is that stimulated to occur in both cases, both when you actually perform the physical movement and when you do not?) Aha! The answer, my friends, is.......yes!
It most definitely does! However, before you all start singing Hallelujah and envisioning a future where you can leisurely sit on your ever-enlarging posteriors in your easy chairs, with your remote controls, adult diapers, and 2-liter bottle of syrupy carbonated beverage at the ready, and by merely thinking about it, becoming unparalleled masters of the internal martial arts, let me mention that activating the engram for a movement without producing that movement physically does not provide the same degree of stimulation for myelination to occur as when you actually perform the movement. Not by a long shot. (Well, crap...there goes my weekend plans) Physically performing the movement pattern provides a much larger stimulus for myelination to occur by a very large margin, so actual w-o-r-k is still required for the development for any real skill, no matter what it is.
(Hey, you've talked about the strength of the engram, but you haven't talked about how we optimize the clarity of it) Yes, that's true. So now you know what we'll start with next time.
Last edited by Chris McKinley on Fri May 04, 2012 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.