Physical and mental skills may not be that different

Researchers are increasingly finding out that there is less difference than we think between cognitive and physical skill acquisition. In short, different parts of the brain take over when a skill becomes practiced or “automatic.” This frees up “room” and attention for higher order thinking or additional levels of skill development. This is true even with such romanticized skills such as writing. Maybe we need to deromanticize many skills like writing and creativity.

Mignon: I’d like to hear more about how the caudate nucleus is involved in “skills that come with practice.”

Ellen: Yes, in the study, the caudate nucleus lit up when the experienced writers were writing, but not with the inexperienced writers.

The caudate nucleus is a midbrain structure, which means that it evolved way ahead of the cortex and plays a role in a mind-boggling array of functions, including some really fundamental things like sleep and movement.

Germane to this study, it also plays a role in learning.  As you gain expertise, your brain economizes and automates.  In other words, as you get good at something, you stop overthinking—the task becomes automatic, like riding a bike or using a fork.  So it makes sense that this area lit up in the scans of expert writers.





In their very valuable book Video review of the book

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning the authors emphasize the importance of corrective feedback to improve learning. Teachers generally focus too much on their role as distributors of information rather than evaporators of student performance. I would add that even better outcomes are achieved when we help students to self-evaluate by providing them with cues, checklists, or external triggers to aid them to evaluate.

TIP: Choose exercise that have built in feedback whenever possible. As instuctors, parents, or managers we should help our learners to self-evaluate to improve performance whenever possible. If the learner does not understand why they have received their grade or evaluation and how they can improve their performance then we have failed to teach effectively.

Examples of exercises with built in feedback:

Can you touch your toes?

Can you hold your balance on one leg with your eyes closed for ten seconds?

A very good example of corrective exercises. In short, our exercise routines should be built on improving performance in a specific area, even when foam rolling.

The Evolution of Myelin.

The Evolution of Myelin.

Primitive animals living in the dark recesses of the sea bed lead a quiet and relatively unchallenged life. When animals started to venture away from such protected areas in search of food, the need for flight from external danger became necessary. Evolutionary pressure resulted in the selection of features which favoured escape. This is where myelin came in. Myelin is an insulating material that is wrapped around the axons of nerve cells. Its job is to increase the speed of conduction of electrical signals along the nerve fibre to muscle targets. The result is faster reactions to danger and a better chance of survival. So what is myelin and how does it work?

via The Evolution of Myelin..

The importance of cues and practice

Lots to learn from his approach especially cues

He has a list of 20 checkpoints he works on for his shot. The list includes phrases that help him maintain his correct shooting form, things like, “up strong,” “hold follow-through,” and “slight bend at waist.”

Kyle Korver has a great explanation for how he became the best shooter in the NBA – Yahoo Finance.

More on his approach: