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A team of scientists explore how the brain trains muscles to move

A person swinging a golf club
Feb 26 2020
Fellow, Research, Stanford, Students

We’ve all heard the saying: “Practice makes perfect.”

But research into the neurological process of learning how to move suggests that it might be more accurate to say “mindful practice makes perfect.”

This may not sound revolutionary to anyone who’s ever shot a free throw like LeBron, or knocked a golf ball like Nicklaus. Star athletes understand that visualizing the shot is critical to perfecting it. Neurologically speaking, however, this new understanding completely upends the current theories of how the brain learns to move the body.

“It turns out that the learning process in the brain is deeply interested in what happens before you make a movement — that’s why thinking about the movement you are about to make helps you learn,” says Saurabh Vyas, a doctoral candidate in bioengineering.

Co-author Saurabh Vyas is a 2018 Stanford Graduate Fellow.