How to play like a pro: The neuroscience of muscle memory

With the Olympics just past and the Paralympics in full swing, it’s difficult not to marvel at every athlete’s mastery of their discipline. Was Andy Murray born to play tennis, or are complex motor patterns something which we all may be capable of achieving? Here, we explore the neuroscience behind motor learning: the process that helps you tie your shoelaces, and allows Andy Murray to hit backhand winners in his sleep.

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An Essay on the Shaking Palsy: Parkinson’s Disease 200 Years Later

Parkinson’s disease (PD) was first identified by James Parkinson in 1817. A chronic disorder of the central nervous system (CNS), it affects the basal ganglia and motor systems of the brain. It is characterised by the loss of A9 dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) area of the midbrain. Loss of these neurons leads to a decrease in the dopamine supply to their projection zones.

The underlying process for the observed cell death in this area is not yet known. It has, however, been shown that a build-up of Lewy Bodies could be, in part, responsible. Lewy Bodies are an aggregation of proteins that cause the normal cellular functions to be impaired or even stop completely. Symptoms of PD appear slowly over time, with the first symptom usually being a gait disturbance or a difficulty in writing.

 

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