Photo by Utopix Pictures
You saw a movie the day before yesterday and you don’t remember what they say, or you ate something yesterday and you don’t remember when and where. How long have you been cycling? Even if it is days, months or years, if you go up today, you remember very well how to do. Why is this happening;
The explanation exists and is purely scientific. The neuropsychologist Boris Suchan, in an article in Scientific American, explains that there are two types of long-term memory that a person has. The declarative and the procedural. Declarative memory, in turn, is divided into two other subcategories, semantic memory and episodic memory.
The latter is about recalling an event that happened in our life, such as a concert or an accident while walking. Semantic memory (also called pragmatic) is, for example, knowing a piece of information such as that World War II ended in 1945.
However, when we talk about skill acquisition, then this is part of procedural memory. Driving a car, a sport, or riding a bicycle is stored in another part of the brain. Imagine that even if an accident in your head robs you of the memory of knowing how to ride a bike, the part that controls how to ride a bike might not be damaged and you ride a bike without remembering that you learned.
Assuming your basal ganglia (group of neuron bodies), which process non-declarative memory, are not damaged, you should be able to pedal without any problems.
The other question that arises is why procedural memory is so long-lasting and persistent. Science can’t answer that question with the same clarity, but Suchan says the areas of the brain where movement patterns are formed show less turnover of nerve cells, helping to maintain the recall of those actions.
That’s why there’s no way you’ll ever forget the bike, even if you’ve been doing it for years. Even if you have forgotten what you learned…
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