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finding my balance
hand signals
personal trainer
cyclists
accomplishment
Reviving Old Skills Long Since Forgotten
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Reviving Old Skills Long Since Forgotten

It’s said that once you’ve learnt to ride a bike you never forget. I’ve often wondered whether that was actually true, but this week I found that it was. I actually rode a bike for the first time in 15 years. After looking at the bike for a minute or two, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to swing my leg over the bar (I was riding a man’s bike), settle myself on the rather uncomfortable saddle and start to pedal. Apart from a slight wobble I was off. It was absolutely exhilarating and I found that reviving old skills that I’d thought were probably gone forever came back far more easily than I thought.

It wasn’t just that I could remember how to balance, as I cycled alongside my personal trainer, it was completely natural to speed up or slow down so we moved into single file as we passed other cyclists and walkers. I had no trouble applying the breaks to go round sharp corners, or navigate some very rock terrain with loose stones all over the place, and I was able to use hand signals when we were on the road. I even managed to use gears for the first time and I returned home sore from using new muscles but happy at my accomplishment.

But when I came home I wanted to know if there was any particular reason why I found it so easy to cycle after a 15 year break, and if I hadn’t forgotten how to ride a bicycle were there other skills that I don't currently use that I could revive just as easily.

Well it seems back in 2007 scientists at the universities of Sheffield and St Andrews, Drs Jim Stone and Peter Jupp provided proof that was published in the journal Neural Computation that if you relearn some parts of a partially forgotten set of memories it can induce recovering of the remaining memories which is spontaneous and long lasting.

In order to ride a bike, after a long break as I did, it required me to call on a set of memories involving feelings and movements known as “sensory motor memories”. The ‘relearning’ ie finding my balance and being able to move the bike in a forward movement led to a spontaneous recovery of the skill I thought I’d forgotten and allowed me to change direction, speed up slow down, glide without pedalling etc.

Apparently this happens because memories are contained in different connections of a variety of brain cells, which all contribute to storing vasts amounts of information and associations and that when we relearn something it can affect both partially forgotten associations directly related as well as other old associations.

The bottom line is that reviving old skills that have long since forgotten may not be quite as difficult as you think. It’s certainly not just the skill of riding a bike that you can pick up again. It can apply to other skills as well.

It also means that there is no excuse for not having a go at something you were able to do in the past. Think how many times you’ve said to yourself “I can’t”. Well now change that to I can. You may be a little rusty and a little shaky to start with, but you brain will naturally kick in and you’ll probably surprise yourself.

Now what skills would you like to revive?


Street Talk

wonderful! hm. 2007 got a bicycle... did not exactly get a chance to use... once my knees heal from my recent fall that busted 'em, will get it from storage and relearn;) thanks!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Hi Cynthia. Hope you're knees heal quickly so you get the chance to get that bike out. Ive been cycling again since and now remember how much I enjoyed it.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Hi there, This is a really amazing attribute of our brains isn't it? My example is that we spent six years in Australia and during that time took up ballroom dancing for the second time. The dancing in Australia is quite different to UK so we learnt all the routines from scratch (about 100 +), We then left Australia and didn't go back for some five years. Went to see our dancing friends and of course we had to dance. Each dance came back to us after just a few steps. This was amazing for us and I must say our friends because in the intervening five years we had not danced once as we were in countries where ballroom dancing is not popular. Regards Keith

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Hi Keith Thanks for sharing this. I think it's incredibly impresive that your memories kicked in to that extent and is a great example of how we should never be afraid to give old skills another go. Beverley

Reply
  about 7 years ago

It is amazing that our brain stores so much information until we need it. It is an amazing gift for us. Gayle

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

You're right Gayle. It is a great gift - one that remains incredibly undeveloped for the majority of us.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
David 2  

Sure, I will like to relearn how to play an Organ, hope, it will work out well as yours.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Hi David. I'm sure you'll be able to. It may not be as simple as remembering how to ride a bike, but I'm sure your memory will quickly help you how to coordinate your hand and feet movements. Good luck

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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