Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 21

PRACTICE

Observation:
What does practice accomplish? Am I building
strength, or just a habit?
Research:
Neuroscience has countered long-standing
views about the brain, revealing that it can
change. The medical terms for this are plasticity
and neurogenesis. In her book, Train Your
MIND Change Your BRAIN, Sharon Begley
reviews studies by neuroscientists that have
replaced old myths about how our brain reacts
to repetitious training. Where the scientific
community used to believe that we were born
with and maintained our neuro programming
for life, recent research confirms that the mind
is much more adaptive than once believed.
One of Begley's examples recounts how
Drs. Michael Merzenich and Jon Kaas "severed
the medial nerve in a monkey's hand, leaving the
monkey unable to feel anything on the thumb
side of the palm. Several months after the surgery, time enough for the monkey's brain to
realize it had not received any signals from the
thumb for quite a while, the doctors re-examined
the somatosensory cortex [the brain's processor
for sense of touch]. Up until now, the standard
view was that one would discover a 'black hole'
in the cortex where it used to receive input.
"
In fact, what the two doctors discovered was
that the region of the brain that had originally
received signals from the severed nerve,
now responded to stimulation of other parts
of the hand. Instead of receiving signals from
the thumb area, this region of the brain now
responded to signals from the pinkie side of the
palm. While the study was initially dismissed as a

quirk, the surrounding controversy led to
more experimentation that ultimately discharged the myth of the stagnant brain.
"In fact, these studies showed that our brain's
physical layout, how much space is apportioned to certain tasks and how strongly
one neuronal firing is connected to another,
is shaped by experiences and the life we live,
"
wrote Begley.
From Dr. Tant:
"Research on humans has confirmed and
extended such findings. Brain scans of concert
violinists and taxi drivers show enlargement
of brain areas important to the practice of their
profession (left hand for violinists, and the hippocampus-important for spacial memory, in taxi
drivers.) [Siegel, p. 85]
"More directly applicable to shooting is
research establishing that growth in the middle
prefrontal lobe occurs in mindfulness practitioners who are adept at paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental and non-controlling manner. Think of an ideal shooter, focused
on the center of the bull [with a red-dot scope],
observing but not forcing, accepting the
random movement of the sights and noting
the outcome of the shot with detachment.
Now think of doing it yourself, over and over
again, knowing that you are exercising and
growing your brain with each repetition.
"
Muscle Memory:
Further research suggests that not only can
the "second room" (the cerebellum) of the
brain store procedures, but the trained
brain has a better idea of tripping the correct
nerves and muscles, leading to memory
within the muscle itself.

...an ideal shooter, focused on the center of the bull, observing
but not forcing, accepting the random movement of the
sights and noting the outcome of the shot with detachment.
SHOOTINGSPORTSUSA.COM 21


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Shooting Sports USA - July 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Shooting Sports USA - July 2014

Contents
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - Cover1
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - Cover2
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 3
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - Contents
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 5
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 6
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 7
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 8
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 9
Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 10
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Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - 21
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Shooting Sports USA - July 2014 - Cover4
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