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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

What does practice make?

What does practice make?

If you said perfect, shoot yourself now. Practice makes permanent.

Technically, practice makes myelin. It speeds communication between neurons – it makes you act and react more quickly, and more efficiently.

Here comes the geeky bit.

So what is myelin? Myelin is a plasma membrane made up of 40% water, with the rest being mostly fat and some protein. Myelin comes from glial cells which provide structural and metabolic support for neurons. In particular on the peripheral nervous system these are called Schwann Cells, and in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) they are called oligodenrocytes.

Myelin acts on axons. These can be thought of as ‘wires’ that travel between neurons. They allow one neuron to ‘talk’ to another by means of ion conduction, or ‘electrical current’ if you will. When the neurons talk to each other on the same axon the glial cells recognise this and start adding myelin to make the communication more efficient.

The myelin wraps itself around the axons in little stretches with small gaps called ‘nodes of ranvier’ in between each section of myelin. The myelin can be thought of as insulation around the axon allowing faster electrical movement within, and with less dissipation. The nodes of ranvier allow for something called satatory conduction to take place, where sodium (Na+) allows the electrical charge to speed along between the myelinated parts.  

Myelin allows there to be faster electrical movement along the axons with less dissipation allowing the neurons to talk to each other more quickly. If neurons can communicate with more speed and efficiency then you can react and act more quickly.

The more times you repeat a movement the more myelin gets laid down. It is permanent, unless affected by old age or disease, yet can (generalisation) always be laid down.

So practice doesn’t make things perfect – it makes things permanent. So the only thing that counts is getting your training right – particularly all technical elements.

So when someone tells you that “practice makes perfect”, you now have all the information you need to point them in the right direction.

This is me in training, carrying out deliberate practice to get it right.
Kickboxing training at Kops Gym, Amsterdam

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