Muscle memory vs memory muscle

I’ve been familiar with the concept of “muscle memory” for some time, and I noticed that Wikipedia has an entry on it in English, but not in German.

A few days ago I listened to the latest episode of the BBC podcast “Six Minute English” entitled “Why do we forget what we learn?” and it uses the term “memory muscle”. I find this interesting because memory works like a muscle and that’s why we call it “memory muscle”, while we call a certain kind of procedural memory “muscle memory”.


When you are making a movement, neurons are either triggering or inhibiting their pulses back and forth from the PNS to the CNS. (peripheral and central nervous systems). The more they are triggered, the greater they mature as neurotransmitters and the electrochemical gradients are always in motion. This reinforcement allows an individual to go some time without doing the same action while still retaining the skills, the neural network slowly degrades if not in use but because it was reinforced in the past it takes longer to degrade. When you then do the movement again. it still feels familiar because those neural pathways are still strong enough to allow you to coordinate efficiently.

Many athletes use visualization techniques when injured, during practice sessions or even right before an actual event. Visualization can actually reinforce the same neural pathways that are needed in the action and helps injured muscles atrophy slower, and prime muscles before an event. A bobsled team may sit there before a race and visualize the whole track down to a few seconds difference.


Muscle memory is a term that describes how efficient your neural networks are in triggering familiar neural paths done continuously in the past.


Memory muscle

I just ran across one of Benjamin Franklin’s many sayings.

The used key is always bright.

Most of his sayings were not originally his. But he would reword them, shorten them, or adapt them to an American audience. I like this one because, like most of his sayings, it’s so concise and so true.