Practice Makes the Brain More Efficient

Practice Makes the Brain’s Motor Cortex More Efficient

Aug. 4, 2013 — Not only does practice make perfect, it also makes for more efficient generation of neuronal activity in the primary motor cortex, the area of the brain that plans and executes movement, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The hand area of the primary motor cortex is known to be larger among professional pianists than in amateur ones. This observation has suggested that extensive practice and the development of expert performance induces changes in the primary motor cortex…

“This tells us that practicing a skilled movement and the development of expertise leads to more efficient generation of neuron activity in the primary motor cortex to produce the movement.

…our results indicate that practice changes the primary motor cortex so that it can become an important substrate for the storage of motor skills. Thus, the motor cortex is adaptable, or plastic.

 Read the entire article with links to the research on Science Daily at:

I recommend people find some kind of movement activity they enjoy; a movement art, martial art, dance form, ATM®, juggling – anything that is both physically engaging and requires you to pay attention to how you do what you do. This cultivation of attention skills matched with whole body movement is  essential to health and wellbeing throughout our lives. As we grow older it’s crucial that we keep this joy of learning alive.  -  Suzane

  Train your brain; move your body.

Learn something new, Practice regularly and Thrive!  

Frequently recommended Feldenkrais® ATM® Lessons

Links to Feldenkrais Method®  Awareness Through Movement® lessons that I frequently recommend:

Lori Malkoff videos offer gentle “starter” lessons to ease pain in the hips and low back:

Quickie five minute version of the pelvic clock lesson from lying on your back:

Lynette Reid offers these variations of the pelvic clock lesson on her deep site Kinesophics:

Frank Wildman’s book offers quick lessons that make a big difference, “The Busy Person’s Guide to Easier Movement” available on Scribd:

“Change Your Age” is the program that evolved from The Busy Person’s Guide. A fully fleshed out program:

I often recommend this lesson:

improving balance, lesson #26:

More about Frank Wildman on his site, The Feldenkrais Institute:

Jeff Haller

My teacher, Jeff Haller offers audio downloads of some lessons plus comprehensive DVD sets. “Plane Divides the Body” is very rich – lots to mine from this lesson. Jeff teaches it four different ways.

“Plane Divides the Body” lesson

Discovering the roots of Internal Strength  video set:

Alan Questel

Alan offers several audio sets on Balance, Falling, Reversibility, Getting Hips (hip joints).

Click the icon in the left hand column of this site to go to his “Uncommon Sensing” product page.

Tuesdays in April 5:30 – 6:00 pm

Aikido Basics is the theme

for Center Yourself Tuesdays in April.

  • Practice footwork patterns to reinforce center line and improve balance.
  • Bring yourself to the ground gently and rise again with fluidity.

Open to the public: $10 drop-in.

Free for members and “Aikido Starter Kit” participants.

Train your brain, move your body, center yourself

Find your Space To Move® at Multnomah Aikikai

Multnomah Aikikai is located at 6415 SW Macadam Ave, Portland OR 97239


Center Yourself Tuesdays ~ class in Portland Oregon

NOTE: Class resumes on January 15th. Happy New Year!

[Image followed by text:]

Center Yourself Tuesdays class in Portland

Center Yourself Tuesdays class in Portland:
Get out of the traffic
take off your shoes
feel the ground
clear your head
center yourselfEvery Tuesday, 5:30 – 6:00 pm,  $10, drop ins welcome.
Cash or cards accepted. [Class is free for regular Multnomah Aikikai members].Center your self, center your life

Find your Space To Move at Multnomah Aikikai

Multnomah Aikikai is located at 6415 SW Macadam Ave, Portland OR 97239

Bolt: balance is vital skill for optimal performance

“Mr. Bolt knows how to stabilize his body on one leg and use every single muscle in his hip and leg to stay steady. How? He has trained it, over and over and over again”

Ready, set, Bolt!

Exercise physiologist Michael Olzinski proposes that the master runner’s secret weapon is not what you think.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012 | by Michael Olzinski, MS, CSCS

Mr. Usain Bolt is unarguably the world’s fastest man. He has been recorded running 100 meters in 41 strides and 9.58 seconds.  

The secret? His body is balanced.

If one of those 41 strides at maximum effort was even the slightest bit wobbly, then another runner may have been on the top podium, and the reason is simple: If his stride had wavered even the slightest bit, Bolt’s energy would have dissipated and he would have lost his forward power and acceleration, slowing his time. In a race like Sunday’s, there is no room for even one tenth of a second of misuse, so you better believe Mr. Bolt knows how to stabilize his body on one leg and use every single muscle in his hip and leg to stay steady. How? He has trained it, over and over and over again.

And it’s not just Bolt. Balance may be the most underrated quality in most of the greatest athletes of our time. It’s certainly not flashy, but it’s one of our body’s most fundamental abilities, and most professionals will rank balance (along with mobility) as the first and most vital skill necessary for optimal performance. In fact, the highly publicized strength, endurance, power and speed are actually nothing without a foundation of balance.

So how can you get Bolt-like balance? Short of relocating to Jamaica to train with Usain’s coach, try this:

Stand on right leg, left leg extended in front of you, holding a medicine ball. Bend right knee slightly, then rotate torso towards left. Hold for 3 seconds, then rotate back to center. Repeat on opposite side for one rep. Do 5 reps.

Usain Bolt

Bolt in the 2008 Beijing Games.

This article was found on enititled “Why Usain Bolt is So Fast – Q by Equinox” link to original post:  Why Usain Bolt is So Fast – Q by Equinox.
Regardless of your athletic ability, you can train to improve your balance, refine coordination and increase  dynamic stability. 
Centered, connected, comfortable in your own skin – you’ve found Space To Move.

Scott Mc Credie ~ Balance The Lost Sense

For a long time people believed the structure of semi-circular canals had something to do with hearing. We now know they are integral to our sense of balance.

When some people refer to the “vestibular system,” they are referring specifically to this delicate structure of canals in the inner ear. Others would say these structures are part of the vestibular system but one must include the brain’s role in processing the information gathered by the inner ear structures. The whole circuit of gathering, routing and processing of information regarding one’s orientation to gravity comprises the vestibular system. What about the role of the eyes and the nerve connecting the eyes to ears? Certainly vision is part of the system that we use to sense balance, but the eyes are generally considered to work with the vestibular system rather than identified as components of it. What about proprioceptors? These receptors found in the tendons, associated with various joints (eg. ankles, ribs) are critical to the whole balance equation. The brain processes information from the proprioceptive or “somatosensory” system along with information from the eyes and inner ear structures to constantly update our orientation to gravity and re-calibrate our balance, moment by moment, step by step.

In Scott Mc Credie’s book Balance; In Search of the Lost Sense, Mc Credie mentions it was Aristotle that articulated the 5 senses we generally learned in childhood. Our sense of balance is sometimes referred to as our 6th sense ( see previous post on proprioception and Radio Lab segment “the Butcher’s Assistant). Mc Credie’s delightful book takes us through a bit of the history tracing vestibular science and our understanding of how human balance works. Why do artists of the high wire have such a refined sense of balance and how do they fare as they age? Read the chapter about Karl Wallenda. How did airline pilots shift from flying by their own eyes to reliance on navigation instrumentation? It’s a fascinating and enjoyable read.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Frank Belgau and the cognitive connection. That cerebellum you have not only moves you around but moves thoughts around. The work of Belgau  connects beautifully to some of the new brain science emerging – the building of myelin and our understanding of neuroplasticity.

I recommend the following links:

Scott Mc Credie:

Belgau balance board:

Belgau’s company:

Belgau videos on You Tube:


Embodying Neuroscience

Research Symposium Embodying Neuroscience

Scott Mc Credie radio interview (Live radio interview with David Inge, on WILL-AM, the University of Illinois’ NPR affiliate station, June 13, 2007:):

Balance; In Search of the Lost Sense, Copyright June 2007: Scott McCredie  Purchase Mc Credie’s book

HELPFUL RESOURCES & LINKS (from Mc Credie’s site)

** {NOTE The Frank Forensich link has changed to  and  }

See the Research page on this site for more information about balance.
Learn to improve your balance by taking lessons in human movement.
-Suzane Van Amburgh, Space To Move

Upcoming events

Workshops and classes where Suzane is teaching:

 April 21, 2012:  “Easier Turning” workshop, Saturday, 1-3 pm, SE Portland OR, co-taught with Michael Wesson*

May 15-June 19, 2012: “A Better Back” six-week series, Tuesdays, noon-1pm, SE Portland, co-taught with Michael Wesson*

May 19, 2012: “The Balance Lab” workshop, Saturday 1:30pm – 5:30pm, Aurora Oregon

“Easier Turning” workshop, Saturday April 21, 1-3pm, fee $30. Sunnyside Holistic Center, 2450 SE Belmont St, Portland OR. 

Sometimes discomfort develops in your neck, shoulders, or back that limits your range in turning.  Whether you are turning to check your blind spot while driving, or turning to look at a co-worker while typing at the computer, you might wish that the motion of turning could be more comfortable.  If so, this two hour Feldenkrais® workshop will help you learn how to use your WHOLE body in an efficient way to make turning easier and more comfortable.  Beginners welcome.

The workshop will be comprised of two verbal movement lessons with some demonstration and Q&A.  Wear comfortable clothing and dress in layers depending on room temperature.  Bring comfy socks and a blanket or towel (not a yoga mat). You will be on the floor and sitting in a chair. Co-taught by Michael Wesson and Suzane Van Amburgh.

Workshop limited to 8 participants. Pre-registration advised: Contact Michael Wesson: 559-355-5080,

 “A Better Back” six-week series, Tuesdays, noon-1pm, May 15-June 19, fee $90, Sunnyside Holistic Center, 2450 SE Belmont St, Portland OR

Ah, the Back.  That part of our “core” that tends to bear the brunt of the pain for other muscles that we underuse or use in very inefficient ways.  Whether sitting, standing, reaching, or carrying something, most Americans, at some point in life, have some sort of back issue.  These six Awareness Through Movement® lessons will allow you to reset the way you use yourself so that your back doesn’t do so much of the work.  Each lesson will explore a different movement pattern where you will bring awareness to how you can gently move in the most coordinated way possible for you.

Each lesson lasts one hour.  Plan to  wear comfortable clothing in which you can lie and roll on the floor. Bring comfy socks and a blanket or towel (not a yoga mat). Co-taught by Michael Wesson and Suzane Van Amburgh.

Class limited to 8 participants. Pre-registration required: Contact Michael Wesson: 559-355-5080,

* I am delighted to be co-teaching this class with my colleague Michael Wesson, GCFP. Michael was a computer programmer for 15 years before becoming a Feldenkrais Practitioner.  He developed serious chronic pain issues from computer overuse syndromes. Michael was temporarily disabled and used the Feldenkrais Method® to recover from his injuries. This has resulted in a passion for helping others learn how to use themselves effectively and comfortably to prevent or recover from injury.  Michael completed a four year professional Feldenkrais teacher training program in Santa Cruz, CA. He has been teaching Feldenkrais classes since 2003 and has had Feldenkrais as a part of his personal practice for over twelve years.  Learn more about Michael on his website: 

The Balance Lab,  Saturday May 19, 2012 1:30-5:30pm, $60 fee. Aurora Movement and Healing Arts Center, 14936 3rd Street NE, Aurora, OR 97002

Experience The Balance Lab as a half-day workshop at Aurora Movement and Healing Arts Center, 14936 3rd Street NE, Aurora, OR 97002. That’s about 20 minutes drive south of Portland. For full class description, click to download the printable flyer. Wear loose fitting clothes and be prepared to study barefoot. The studio has a hardwood floor. Presented by Suzane Van Amburgh. To register, contact the center at 503-307-7043,

Ongoing in Portland OR:

Vital Human Feldenkrais Community Clinic
Functional Integration® lessons with Suzane in a clinic atmosphere. Learn more at

Aikido Multnomah Aikikai
Suzane is the Chief Instructor at Multnomah Aikikai. Drop by to observe a group class or schedule private lessons with Suzane.

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