Muscle memory is also referred to as procedural memory: remembering skills. Declarative memory is long-term recall of facts (semantic memory), events (episodic memory), and spatial maps (topological memory).
Procedural memory and declarative memory process similarly. First comes an encoding stage: the pattern situating into astrocytes, a somewhat fragile process susceptible to inaccuracies.
Encoding is strengthened by concentration. Eyewitness reports of crime scenes are often unreliable because attention is oftentimes not well focused on critical events, and so the initial encoding is patchy and subject to suggestion when prompted for later recall.
The 2nd stage of memory formation, dependent upon the quality of the 1st, is long-term memory consolidation.
The pathways and brain sites most important to muscle memory are distinct from declarative memory. The medial temporal lobe and hippocampus are notably active during establishing declarative memory.
Muscle memory is commonly acquired by practiced movement, but careful observation of a skill being practiced by someone else can result in muscle memory. Such social learning is exemplary of mind-brain integration.
Some muscle memory is hardwired. Facial expressions, once thought entirely learned, are at least partly inherited. Those blind from infancy possess numerous facial expressions.
American psychologist Edward Thorndike was a pioneer in the modern study of muscle memory: early in recognizing that learning can occur without conscious awareness. Thorndike studied the longevity of muscle memory, which explains why such skills as riding a bicycle are readily performed even if rusty from disuse.
Sensorimotor interplay – perception and movement – intertwines while learning any new skill. Children who have poor sensation in their lips and mouths cannot learn to talk normally, no matter the training.
Muscle memory is a functional skill, but the muscle tissues are also self-definitional. The mind-body intelligence system communing with the muscles creates a kinesthetic sense, defining a physical self-image. By contrast, extended lack of movement and sensation while in the conscious state induces hallucinations from disassociation, as the phantasmagoria of imagination struggles to fill the gap of sensory deprivation.
Kinesthetic and muscle memory are interdependent in providing a sense of normalcy: the mental feeling of “rightness.” Once a sense of normalcy is established for a way of doing something, perceived inefficiency or even pain does not alter behavior that feels right, unless repeated exercise results in modification: a relearning of rightness.
Muscle memory can be overcome, albeit not always for the better. Despite practice, muscle memory gives way to attitude. Athletes know that – whatever the game – it is a mental game. Muscle memory mixes with the confidence factor to determine performance. Muscle memory turns to mush with lack of self-confidence.
Old habits die hard. The feeling of rightness can be a formula for obstruction to achieving improvement.
The ease or difficulty of changing behaviors reflects the inner holistic: the mental rigidity that keeps the body locked on an unchanging track springs from a mind unwilling to absorb new facts and adopt new viewpoints. Spontaneity or rigidity is a way of being for one’s entire ecology.