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Motor skill, coordination & learning

Martin Brown |||newspam||| at nezumi.demon.co.uk
Fri Jun 3 04:40:37 EST 2005

The following claim about how we learn motor skills was made in the 
context of a more general discussion on AI and intelligence. I am not a 
biologist but I believe it to be New Age gibberish:

> Let's take something simple.  Learning how to type.  When
> you start out entering the word "the", your brain thinks 
> about t, then sends a signal to your left forefinger, tells
> it to push, and repeats this process for each character.
> As you practice, you stop sending a message/character but
> you begin to send a message/word.  Eventually, the cognitive
> piece of the brain forgets all about the "recipe" of what
> actions and their order that need to be taken to type the
> word "the". 
> I've heard some people calling this muscle memory.  Whatever
> it is, it's no longer resident in the brain. 

I believe the last claim to be wildly inaccurate for humans. Although it 
might be more nearly true for insects with distributed ganglia.

My understanding is that in humans all of the higher functions for 
coordination and motor control are inside the brain. And that once 
learned motor skills are devolved to other subconcious parts of the 
brain like the cerebellum and motor cortex. And that the muscles have 
relatively simple local nerve cells for fine grain feedback control and 
reflex and a nerve connection back to the brain via the spinal cord.

I tried a web search and most of what I found supports my viewpoint. But 
also I found some weird apparently genuine references about using the 
blink reflex to measure intelligence and decided to ask here for 
guidance. eg


I'd appreciate suggestions on where to look for a reliable up to date 
online review of what is known about how we learn new skills from a 
biologist's perspective.  Thanks for any pointers to reference material 
that would clarify this position.

Martin Brown

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