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What Are Motor Skills ?

Motor skills are special type of long-term memory, that we acquire through repetition and practise. There are a range of definitions used, but we at Perceptive Neuroscience, believe that a Motor Skill is a physical ability that we can undertake without conscious thought.

This ability evolved in all vertebrates and quite strongly in humans in a process referred to as Consciousness Release. Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens lived in highly communal groups, in which communications, collaboration, and planning were becoming increasingly important to group survival. If a person had to concentrate on every muscle con- traction require to walk, then the brain would be overwhelmed with such complexity, that it would be unable to concentrate on communications, collaboration and strategy planning.

Consciousness Release occurred as a result of evolution of our brain’s Motor Cortex to accommodate Voluntary and Subconscious movements. Motions that required conscious and careful calculation remained Voluntary, while repetitive and well rehearsed motions could be stored in long term memory as Motor Map, comprising the co-ordinates of the start and end positions of our limbs, and the sequence of muscle contractions required to achieve those co-ordinates.

The information about joint and limb co-ordinates are provided by our Proprioception Sense, or our sense of Position of our joints and limbs in space. The term Proprioception was first used by Charles Sherrington to describe the communication between mechanoreceptors found in Muscle, tendons, joins and the skin, and our brain. The constant flow of information about joint position, flow from our Peripheral Nervous system, through the spinal cord and into the brain’s Motor Cortex. Information on speed, force and resistance in our movements is provided by our Kinaesthetic sense (from the Greek for movement). Following Sherrington’s example, the terms Proprioception and
Kinaesthesia are usually combined under the single term Proprioception.

These Motor Map “programs” run automatically and without conscious thought or direct control, in an auto-pilot mode, which freed up the conscious brain to deal with more pressing matters such as hunting powerful megafauna, which provide the Protein-rich diet that further expanded our Brain’s capacity.

We all use hundreds if not thousands of Motor Skill in our every day lives. We run down a flight of stairs without any thought of how high to raise our leg or when to transfer our weight to the other foot , so we can safely take a step down.

When we brush our hair, without thought. The same movements happen every time and the results are the same every time. You can do this while concentrating on the Radio News or while talking to another person. Your Motor Cortex architec- ture gives you this freedom to ignore the mundane and to focus on what is important.

Stage of Motor Skills Development

Motor Skills are Learned, Consolidated, Refined and Rehabilitated throughout their lives. This is referred to as Neuroplasticity, a term used to describe a quality of being easily shaped or molded. Motor Skill Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt a Motor Skill as a results of learning, experience and memory formation as it is often called, happens in three distinct phases.

Motor Skill Acquisition

These are learned or acquired in three specific Phases.
Cognitive Phase, learners use cognitive and verbal instructions to understand the basic pattern of coordination and receive guidance and feedback from others.

Associative Phase, learners refine the motor performance and become more accurate and less error-prone.

Autonomous Phase, movements are controlled automatically and without conscious thought and become more fluid, reliable, and efficient.

Motor Skill Consolidation

As outlined previously, Motor Skills exist as a Motor Map compromising Proprioceptive information for mechanoreceptors located in our Peripheral Nervous System. The brain receives a constant stream of Proprioceptive information from every joint, muscle and tendon in the body throughout the day, which is believed to be stored in short term memory. This raises the interesting question of how the brain determines which part of this vast Proprioceptive information stream to keep and use to crease new Motor skill Maps and which can be safely ignored.

The answer has only recently been discovered, due to innovations in brain scanning techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG)

The answer appears to be Emotional. Recent research has shown that the neurotransmitter Dopamine, a hormone associated with happiness, joy and reward, appears to be necessary for the consolidation of motor skills learning and to preserve the Motor Memory Proprioceptive data on which motor skill is based.

While the mechanism are yet to be fully defined, it appears that the joy of success in a good outcome to an attempted skill or praise from a parent, coach or peer, produces a Dopamine serge that “tags” the Motor memory data as important, and worthy of keeping from destruction during REM sleep, when the brain discards useless or unnecessary data accumulated throughout the day.

As results, a sense of joy, pride, accomplishments or praise are essential for a Motor Skill to be Created, Consolidated, Persevered and built upon.

Motor Skill Refinement

Plasticity is a term used to describe a quality of being easily shaped or molded. Motor Skill Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt a Motor skill as a results of learning, experience and memory formation.

So the more you practice a skill, the better you will become at it, and as long as you reward yourself with a little jump for joy, that improvident with be permanently imprinted on your Motor Map and your skill.

Fail to produce the Dopamine rush, and you risk your new skill going out with Brain’s discarded data of the day.

Motor Skill Rehabilitation

A Motor Map is a map, with references to joints, tendons, muscles and skin receptors that, like all parts of our body, are subject to ageing, injury and degeneration. But fortunately we have Neuroplasticity on our side.
Every Motor skill can be re-learned, Refined or even replaced.

However we need to understand that as we age, the volume, fidelity and acuity of our proprioceptive sensory signally also ages, proving less sensory information that the brain may require to re-establish a new Motor Skill.

To overcome this, we at Perceptive Neuroscience have developed a range of Proprioceptive Brain Trainers products, that amplify the proprioceptive signally to the brain, but recruiting and stimulating unused subcutaneous skin stretch mech- anoreceptors in the skin above the joints being used in a Motor Skill. This is especially valuable as we age, as the loss of collagen in the skin making the skin less elastic and less able to actively skin stretch mechanoreceptors alone. Brain Trainers reach out into the surrounding skin stretch these receptors due to their adhesive design and the natural move- ment of the skin over a moving joint.

Important Tips:

A slight variation in the manner in which you try to execute a Motor skill will considerably improve
your likelihood of success. If its a golf swing you are trying to relearn, try a different club, a slight change to you grip, a different stance. The brain will interpret this information as new and as long as you celebrate every success, you can re-establish a lost Motor skill, even after a stoke or surgery.

Enhanced Proprioceptive Skills Trainers

A review of 3,297 published scientific articles and studies showed that Proprioceptive Training led to an average improvement in proprioception of +46%, resulting in +45% improvement in motor performance.
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Enhance Your Motor Skills Learning

Accelerated learning of sporting and fine motor skills in children and adults.
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