Muscle Memory is one of the most crucial elements that connects your brain to your body

Today I want to share some thoughts about a concept we understand intimately in the simulation business that everybody since the birth of mankind has endeavoured to achieve and perfect by the time they are 12 months old. It is an issue that affects our work, behaviour, responses, movement, reactions, co-ordination, whether we will win a sports event, our driving, how we operate machinery, how and why we train, how F16 pilots respond in an emergency and primarily one of the reasons pilots train in simulators and why the MacLaren Technology race centre has spent millions on their state of the art race car simulator in the UK.

First I would like you to perform a very simple execise. Before I give you the instructions here is a question. Can you outsmart your foot? Think about it for a moment …. let me rephrase it, Can you control your foot no matter what else your body is doing? Ok store your answer, share it with someone else who is reading this with you. What I am about to share with you might be one of the most profound things you will understand about human movement and control.

How smart is your Right Foot?

1.  WITHOUT anyone watching you (they will think you are GOOFY….. 🙂 and while sitting where you are at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot  off the floor and make clockwise circles.

2.  Now, while doing this, draw the number “6” in the air with your right hand.

Now did you suddenly see what happened with your right foot? Your foot changed direction as you were drawing the figure 6! Try it again, and concentrate harder and see if you can outsmart your foot, and again. You could keep doing this every day for years and you will NEVER be able to stop your foot from changing direction.

Why is that you might ask, am I stupid, because I am write handed or left handed – no it is none of these and every person on the planet will have the same response with the foot. The answer is because It’s preprogrammed in your brain and there is absolutely nothing you can do about! So relax …it means you’re normal 🙂 The telling aspect about this illustration is that the muscle memory has been preprogrammed already so you do not need to spend time learning this for your next party trick…you already know how to do it.

This brings me to todays post, Muscle memory and how it is one of the most fundamental and crucial skills we need to teach our body.

Do you recall one of the very first activities you learnt that you do to this very day… its walking, those staggering steps, mums outstretched arms and coo cooing you to take one more step. You had to concentrate and tell each leg what to do. If you later lost your legs and became an amputee you went thru the whole process again. Teaching the brain and muscle how to work together, when to send signals and when to move. So eventually with walking you finally perfected it and never once do you now think, left leg, now right, now left…eventually it became engrained in your brain and you leg muscles learnt what to do, you even managed it at high speed and we saw some amazing examples of this at the Olympics in Bejing last week and then this week with the Disabled Olympics with the amputees.

This is one of the reasons we use simulators, is to teach the muscle how to move in a split second in an event sub consciously preprogrammed with the correct automatic response. The nano second command from the brain to the muscle may either kill, save you or enable you to proceed normally. Many times we find in the SimDeck simulator that people confuse left paddle down gears with righ paddle gears up command, but never do we find people having a problem with left foot brake and right foot accelerator. With the gear paddles on the steering column often we will give the instruction right paddle up, drivers use the left paddle and suddenly drop itno reverse. After some practice they eventually teach the muscle the command. Now this issue becomes so much more critical, when sudenly they have an audience, 15 other cars racing with them, the expectations to try and win, the need to cope with multiple decisions, emotions and implement car driving skills extremely rapidly as they hurtle into a corner at 250 kph, or pilots coming out of a barrel roll to shake off and incoming missile.

I reflect on a sad incident in Auckland last year in our posh suburb of Remuera where an older lady was reversing out of her drive way, went to put the foot brake on, but hit the accelerator by mistake, the car suddenly lurched backwards and hit a pedesterian that just happened to walk past the drive way at the precise moment… she was killed! So in that nano second, the legs got confused and the right leg depressed instead of the left.

In a simualor a movement or response, can be programmed into the body due to the ease of repeating over and over again with out the huge cost in reality. Can an ambulance driver practice driving in a “red alert condition on the Auckland motorway”? Can a Police driver practice driving around your city chasing a car with all lights blazing? The answer is NO. Therefore the only way these drivers can practice and teach their bodies how to automatically respond can only be achieved in a simulator. You might think, “well they could do this on a test track”, yes they could but the financial, environmental  and resource realities and the 100’s of drivers need to learn and teach their bodies simply make it impiossible to be able to do this regularly and to repeat exact same road conditions whenever you so desired. This is the awesome power of driving simulators and the very ability and technique that can be used to teach every driver how to driver, change their attitude in driving, eye co-ordination, leg and arm movement etc.  Dean Baker captain of the recent NZ Americas Cup Regatta in Valcenia, was asked “why is the team out training so much on the yachts”, his response was simple and short to “learn muscle memory.”  The professional race industry knows this and one reason why Daniel Greenwood here in Auckland, programmed and designed the Taupo A1GP race track in the simulator … so our Johnny Reid could learn the track before they could get onto the track to race Balck Beauty.

It surprises me , but them maybe it is to be expected, that why successive Governments around the world insist in a short questionaire test and simple driving test for a few minutes is the basis of giving you a license. I call it a legal license to kill.

Sure some will have a 6 time driving course, or Dad might teach you out in the carpark and eventually around some quiet road. But never will Dad or the instructor teach you to learn how to respond when an oncoming car is about to hit you in 2 seconds, but they may teach you how to do a three point turn, reverse into a side carpark and adjust your rear vision mirrors. No wonder we have so many accidents even when no other car is in the vicinity for 50 km!

This is truely the power of simulators and every fighter plane pilot knows this intimately as it teaches them how to respond in one of the most carbon friendly solutions available.

The following graphic is often used to tease the difference of how woman think and how men think. Double click on the graphic to bring it alive.

The ability to multi task

The ability to multi task

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