MAR 14, 2018 8:26 AM PDT

This is Your Brain on Figure Skates


The Olympics are over, the torch is out, and everyone has packed their gear and gone home. However, one of the most popular events, figure skating, held audiences at the edge of their seats with the spins, jumps, and choreography that seem both effortless and physically impossible. Figure skating is a complex combination of grace and strength. It takes a huge amount of athletic skill to execute triple and even quadruple axels, and to the untrained eye, it all looks like magic. But there is some science to it.

Many of the moves in skating seem to be counter to what most people do. If someone starts to slip on the ice or fall, the natural reaction when falling backward is a reflex to pitch forward. Skaters have to ignore that reflex and do something that is counter to what the brain would tell the body to do. In the cerebellum, where these motion reflexes happen, skaters have rewired the brain to not react to the spins and dips of their routines. Skaters essentially can re-program what the brain is designed to do, all while wearing a smile and sequins. After hundreds of hours of practice, the moves that are counter to what the average brain would do, are set in stone, and the routines look easy.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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