Long Term Potentiation (LTP)

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Long term potentiation is defined as the gradual strengthening of the connections among neurons from repetitive stimulation. This is apparent in many sports as well as activities we partake in every day life. LTP.jpgIn sports, you might practice the basics, for example, practicing something as simple as dribbling a soccer ball every day. The more you touch the ball, the more comfortable you will become with control and possession of the ball. As you continue and evolve as a soccer player, you are able to take your eye off the ball while controlling and dribbling, which allows more opportunity to keep your head up and look for an open player to pass to. This is because you are strengthening the connection between synapses and neurons in the brain, which in turn strengthens muscle memory and movement with the soccer ball. I also play trumpet and in practicing, one might spend an hour on 10 measures of technically difficult repertoire. In doing so, we strengthen the memory and coordination of our lips, fingers and tongue, making the technically difficult passage second nature and a piece of cake. There have been experiments done on lab rats which sends impulses through the neurons, strengthening the connection between synapses and in turn, faster learning and muscle memory. While the experiment proved to be very effective, it unfortunately caused extreme pain to the lab rats and would be unethical to perform on humans. Research continues to analyze this phenomenon and find new ways to increase long-term potentiation. For more information on long-term potentiation and this topic, check out this video.

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Having played baseball all my life I have always heard how baseball is so dependent on "muscle memory," but have never really though about how this works until this class. LTP occurs every time I throw a baseball, swing a bat, or field a ground ball, but it's something I almost never think about. I even read an article recently that said watching people hit successfully in baseball can lead to increased success because of mirror neurons. It's truly amazing how the human brain works, and I am very interested to see if there is greater emphasis put on the brain to improve performance around sports as research and technology continue to advance.

To be honest, I don't think we have actually found evidence of LTP in procedural memory (learning to play a sport or the trumpet). My understanding is that these connections are made through transfer of neural control to other areas of the brain...

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This page contains a single entry by park0808 published on April 29, 2012 5:29 PM.

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