MSLA 4.06 – Motor Memory

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Motor Memory

Not all of these milk pitcher manoeuvres require practice. Many designs can be approached and developed very quickly. There is a direct relationship between the difficulty of a pattern and how long it takes to develop the motor memory for it. Motor memory makes a technique easy to perform, without the need to think about what you’re doing. The process of mapping a manoeuvre into your muscle memory comprises two steps: memory encoding and memory consolidation. Once a memory is encoded and consolidated, your motor memory can be engaged to easily repeat learned behaviour.

Memory Encoding

The first step in establishing a motor task, memory encoding, is fragile and easily interrupted without repetitive practice, or ‘maintenance rehearsal’. This rehearsal helps to maintain information in what’s known as your short-term memory, but does not place information in your long-term memory for retrieval later. Encoding allows you to shape what kind of information is stored in your long-term memory (Goldstein, E. B., 2014).

Memory Consolidation

The process of by which a memory is locked away into long-term memory, no longer requiring attention, is consolidation. Through this process, memories and information that may be fragile or susceptible to loss are transformed into a more permanent state in long-term memory, where they are resistant to change or disruption (Frankland, P. W., & Bontempi, B., 2005). It emphasises the importance of performing the movement correctly right from the start, due to the fragility of memories before consolidation — ‘new memories are clear but fragile and old ones are faded but robust’ (Wixted, 2004, p. 265).

Just as a musician builds up the speed of scales and arpeggios slowly, over a period of months, it is advisable to initially learn simplified versions of patterns. For example, begin with tulip designs that have 2 (not 7) petals and rosettas that have 10 (not 20) petals.

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