The term “muscle memory” is often used to describe how athletes can perform a task with incredible consistency. Think about shooting a free throw in basketball. No matter where you play, the free throw is constant – 15 feet away from a 10 foot tall basket with no obstructions. So what accounts for the difference in players who shoot 90%+ and those who can barely hit the 50% mark from the charity stripe?
Disregarding the physical extremes (ie, Shaq’s enormous hands), the more an individual practices, the more his or her body seems to develop the neuronal pathway involved with controlling the flexors associated with shooting a free throw. Over time, this pathway becomes second nature and the muscles seem to remember exactly how the basketball should be released from shot to shot (hence, “muscle memory”). The Journal of Experimental Biology attributes this consistency to an increased amount of acetylcholine being released at the neuromuscular junction to elicit a fixed response.
Watching NBA games over the weekend obviously counts as studying the nervous system. 😉