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Brain, learning, movement

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
This from Tog in a previous thread:

While we've got your ear a couple of questions. Back in the "Wacko how long have you skied" thread there was quite a discussion about instructors making very quick assesments of peoples abilities. Is there a scientific name to such mental assesments? (Used by detectives,parents...everyone!)
Also, is there a specific part of the brain devoted to athletic movement?

Perhaps these should be in a different thread."

A couple of points. Lisamarie knows her neurobiology alot better than I know my skiing! The cerebellum is indeed very important in motor performance, coordination, motor learning, and importantly for skiing, in coordinating muscle movements with sense of balance. It isn't the main motor area of the brain, which directly commands muscles to move in certain patterns, but it's very important in coordinating those movements.

I can't really answer Tog's question about quick assessment very well. Your brain does this all the time, in simpler ways. Your brain interprets and filters what comes in through your senses in very complex and unexpected ways. I could give alot of examples if anyone wants, but it's a bit off the topic. Suffice it to say that this interpretation and assessment by the brain works most of the time. An experienced ski instructor has hundreds of images stored somewhere of skiers of various levels making turns. You watch someone new for 20 yards, fit them to the closest match stored picture, and make a guess about ability. You will be "just about" right "most" of the time. The more images you have stored up (i.e. the more experienced you are as an instructor), the more often you will be correct. You will always be wrong some of the time.

To me, the most interesting thing in the context of skiing is how the nervous system learns motor skills. There is a principle about the connections between neurons called "Hebbs principle". It states that the more you use a given connection, the stronger it gets relative to others. This is what we call practice. But you have to practice the correct movement patterns. This is why it's better to drill on easy slopes (for you), where you will do things right. This certainly could be used as an argument for never teaching the wedge, because you're practicing something you don't use later. I think this argument would be wrong. The way I was taught to use the wedge (and then ditch it), was not to learn the wedge; it was to learn about the effects of edging without steering. In a wedge, the skis are pre-steered, each to a different steering angle. Transfer of weight turns the stance ski. You don't practice steering, because you only "did it" once, when you set the wedge. Even in linked wedge turns, with skis parallel in between turns (stemming??), you separate the wedging movement from the edging-weighting, so you still learn. So I don't see the argument one way or the other in that context.

(Sorry, getting longer).

but what is really interesting about learning is that at first the movement patterns are consciously directed. As those connections (synapses) get stronger, the pattern of movement commanded by the brain becomes more and more automatic and unconscious. To me, the definition of an expert skier is that he/she doesn't think about the movements at all. That why, as someone told it here, a world-class skier can rocket down a steep slope carrying slalom gates and talking to his coach.

This is what enables us to ski well, but also what makes teaching skiing so difficult. A good teacher has to dredge those skills back up out of the unconcious realm into the conscious realm, and explain them to someone else. this is why a good skier isn't necessarily a good teacher, and why a coach at the world class level doesn't have to be a better skier than his pupil.

That's why I pressed about the "feel" of a turn. It's easier for you experts to verbalize that than to recreate the movement patterns. That's why video is so valuable.

It's like the (true) story of the English professor teaching a short story class. In the new edition of the anthology she was using, her own story appeared. Just before class, she took a quick look at the study questions for her own story. "Why does the author introduce the fathers past traumatic experiences in front of the kitchen mirror instead of in the bedroom?" or some such crap. Her reaction: "Hell if I know. I just wrote the story."

So: "How do you turn like that on a steep slope at high speed?" "I don't know, I just turn."

And worse, if you think about it too hard, you might get it wrong, even though you are the one doing it. So, hats off to good teachers. It's alot harder than just doing.
post #2 of 14
Thanks, SciBill, I learned something today..

post #3 of 14
Fascinating! The Pilates post rehab certification has a segment on motor learning, that scratches the surface on the topic of neurobiolgy. But needless to say, we are not experts, and it is valuable to have your input.
What always intrigued me was the idea that to "correct" a "faulty" movement pattern , one needs to perform the movement 1,000 times, correctly. Interesting, since this is the same information we got about how to train our greyhound.

What are your feelings on neurolinguistics, and the concept of people being either right brain or left brain learners? I find these topics interesting, but have a hard time putting myself into any category.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence

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[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited May 23, 2001).]</FONT>
post #4 of 14
SciBill: I have to make a note regarding beginning turns in a wedge. If that process is taught (and practiced) properly, you should not have to unlearn any aspect of wedge turns in order to make nonwedge turns. A correct wedge turn involves the same movements you make for a parallel turn. Your description of a weight shift to begin a wedge turn is incorrect. The weight shift in a wedge turn should occur as the turn progresses and result from the turning. The initiation of the wedge turn should come from steering inputs (including flattening of the inside ski and increased edging of the outside ski).
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Interesting. Not how they taught it to us, but your description makes alot more sense in light of what I've learned since. Thanks.
post #6 of 14
Sci Bill, as a grocery clerk, I couldn't have put it better myself.
post #7 of 14
SciBill and milesb
Now is that a fault of the "system" or the Instructor? Remember that often level 1-4 classes are taught by instructors that have no certs or experience over a year or two unless you are in an unusual situation.
post #8 of 14
Scientist Bill:

Great post............. but I'm of the ilk that learns by analogies........ so.......

Could you perhaps frame this using something like some ....... er... religious imaging??
post #9 of 14
thanks for the post! Would Hebb's principle tell us that it's better to do something intensely for a shorter period of time rather than stretched out over a longer time? In skiing for example, would you make better connections in your brain if you do in one year say 30 days of skiing as opposed to 2 years of 15 days each year?

Here's another one. After taking a pilates class it's been determined I need to relearn how to walk. I thought I'd mastered this by age 4 but apparently I'm mistaken.(I also need to learn how to breathe but that will have to wait a bit because if I practice both at once I'm afraid I'll go into a coma.)

So now I have to concentrate on walking: keeping my feet pointed ahead, feeling the pressure more on the big toe sides of the feet, getting more push off from the toes, and changing the heel strike. O.k., I presume that eventually I'll get this down and won't have to "think" about it I'll just do it naturally.(Then I'll be able to breathe!) Does the control shift to another part of the brain or does it happen in the same place under the radar screen of conscious thought?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that from your posts, you and JohnH are left-handed. True?
post #10 of 14
I'll teach you to walk and breath if you teach me to ski.
post #11 of 14
O.k. we'll give it a shot. 1st problem: how to overcome excessive analysis? Abstinence from epic instruction forum?- probably too cruel.
Suggestion: When skiing in your group, go first so you aren't tempted to analyze what they're doing.
Get rollerblades quick!
When you get good at them you could make up an excercise class with them. This could be very big like TaeBo. (I'll expect royalties)
post #12 of 14
Abstinence from epic forum??? WHAAaaaa!!!!!
Its the company that I like best.
I have hyperflexible ankles. Don't know if rollerblading would be a good sport for me. And... Its already a major element in the fitness industry. So I'd be late for the prom.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence

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[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited May 23, 2001).]</FONT>
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Questions that get into what we don't know about the brain.

Sideness, certainly. I'm right-handed, so my left turns have always been easier and stronger, because they use the stronger right leg for the stance ski. Although there is a dominant eye, etc., I really doubt that plays much of a role in this.

About lots of practice in a short time, vs. spread out, I'll bet the trainers and coaches know more about this than the brain scientists.

Breathing?! Well, evolution has perfected that one under the most extreme of pressures. Don't do it and you die! Breathing is controlled in one of the lower parts of the brain (the brainstem), not in the conscious parts. You can change it consciously to some extent, but if you go too far the body shuts down the conscious part of your brain real fast and takes over what you goofed up. I would practice too much, except some subtle timing things. Watch out, though; your body is really smart about controlling breathing rate and depth to compensate for exercise. Really smart. Unless you can be smarter, don't screw around with it too much.

Walking, ditto. The walking rhythm, including arms, is generated in the spinal cord. You can do it without your head attached. (Don't try this at home.) Evolution has spent alot of years perfecting upright walking, which when you think about it is pretty amazing. Think it's easy? Watch a baby try to learn it. Don't mess with mother nature!
post #14 of 14
Yes, regarding the breathing but the forgetting to breath was more a reminder. Sometimes when we get "involved" we hold our breath. In a bump field this might last 15 seconds to a minute. Not usually enough to cause us to pass out but it sure makes you wonder why you are so out of breath or feeling light headed.
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