Sunday, May 19, 2013

The brain is the body

I am working on working memory and doing Cogmed so I thought I would augment it a bit by looking into memorizing some choreography.  The folks at A Total Approach had great success when they integrated more than one modality so I am thinking about rolling my own little motor memory routine.

Emily S. Cross, a dancer turned neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, so marveled at the complexity required to learn Laura Dean’s Skylight, a piece that her dance ensemble was rehearsing, that she began to devise a neuroimaging experiment to investigate the ways the brain and body interact to learn movement. She has since created a landmark study on dancers’ brains. Cross takes the mirror neuron theory into the realm of dance and visual learning. She discovered that learning steps can be accelerated whenever dancers watch a movement sequence they have performed before. Observation of the same movement patterns deepens the neural grooves placed there by actually performing the steps.

Cross’ work has established the neurological roots of movement visualization principles. She uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map areas of the brain that are engaged when dancers observe movement. “My work supports the common intuition that a combination of observation and physical rehearsal is the best way to learn new work,” says Cross. “Performing along with an expert demonstrator standing in front of the learner, facing away from the learner so that the right arm is mapped on to the right arm and so on, is ideal.”

 Reck, who has studied Cross’ work,  asks her dancers to watch others perform movement as a rehearsal strategy. She also conducts a “neural rehearsal,” which requires precise movement and visualization with each step. Her dancers must see the movement in their minds as they do it. “Neural rehearsals are great for getting a sequence into place,” notes Cross, “while full energy rehearsals are required to build the patterning that will be required to perform the piece.”

So maybe a watch and do and then neural rehearsal.
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