The Science Behind Muscle Memory
Muscle memory is a fascinating phenomenon that allows our bodies to quickly reacquire a certain level of strength or skill in a specific muscle group, even after a long period of inactivity. But what is the science behind this?
Muscle memory is believed to be a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems.
Two key studies provide insights into the science behind muscle memory:
Mitochondrial fragmentation in neurodegeneration: This study suggests that our muscles remember actions through the mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria are dynamic organelles that undergo cycles of fission and fusion, which dictate organelle shape, number, and bioenergetic functionality. It is believed that these cycles play a crucial role in muscle memory, as they ensure the mixing of metabolites and mitochondrial DNA.
Motor control and aging: Links to age-related brain structural, functional, and biochemical effects: This study explores the relationship between age-related brain differences and motor deficits. It suggests that age-related atrophy of the motor cortical regions and corpus callosum may precipitate or coincide with motor declines. However, older adults generally exhibit involvement of more widespread brain regions for motor control than young adults, particularly the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia networks. These regions are most vulnerable to age-related effects, resulting in an imbalance of "supply and demand".
Muscle memory is a complex process involving both the brain and the muscles. It is a testament to the incredible adaptability and efficiency of our bodies. Whether you're picking up a sport after a long hiatus or getting back into the gym after a break, you can thank muscle memory for helping you get back on track more quickly than it took you the first time around.
Exercise Boosts Memory
Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory: This study shows that aerobic exercise training can increase the size of the anterior hippocampus, leading to improvements in spatial memory. The study found that exercise training increased hippocampal volume by 2%, effectively reversing age-related loss in volume by 1 to 2 years. The increased hippocampal volume was associated with greater serum levels of BDNF, a mediator of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus.
This study suggests that regular aerobic exercise can have a profound impact on the brain's structure and function, particularly in areas related to memory and learning. This supports the idea that physical exercise is not only beneficial for the body but also for the brain, and can play a crucial role in maintaining and improving cognitive health and memory as we age.