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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Learning to Unlearn

Our topic for at Swimming Science this week is UN-learning.  We often talk about learning new habits, but to make room for these new habits we must clear out old ones.  Please go HERE for the full post at Swimming Science. 

Below is one except from The Brain that Changes Itself that I did not include in the actual post, but which is on point for this very issue:

"The science of unlearning is a very new one.  Because plasticity is competitive, when a person develops a neural network, it becomes efficient and self-sustaining and, like a habit, hard to unlearn.  Recall that Merznich was looking for "an eraser" to help him speed up change and unlearn bad habits.

Different chemistries are involved in learning than in unlearning.  When we learn something new, neurons fire together and wire together, and a chemical process occurs at the neuronal level called "long term-potentiation," or LTP, which strengthens the connections between the neurons.  When the brain unlearns associations and disconnects neurons, another chemical process occurs, called "long-term depression" or LTD (which has nothing to do with a depressed mood state).  Unlearning and weakening connections between neurons is just as plastic a process, and just as important, as learning and strengthening them.  If we only strengthened connections, our neuronal networks would get saturated.  Evidence suggests that unlearning existing memories is necessary to make new ones in our networks." (p. 116-117)

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