Author Archives: mjg6031

Is it Magic or Muscle Memory?

I have been playing baseball since I was eight years old. In little league I learned how to hit, field and pitch. I continued playing through high school. The number of swings I have taken and the pitches thrown are too many to count. After all these years of practice and games, swinging a bat and pitching comes naturally to me. But what does naturally really mean? Each time you do something it tends to feel more comfortable. Sometimes, there is improvement the more frequent a skill is repeated. I think the science behind an act feeling natural is what is meant by muscle memory. From personal experience, if you repeat something enough your body develops a memory for the task. Doing the task seems easier or becomes second nature. When I swing a bat my body automatically gets into position without thinking about it. It’s the same with my pitching. The occasional correction to my pitch is more of an adjustment rather than re-learning how to pitch. We shouldn’t confuse muscle memory with necessarily being good at something. If you repeatedly swing a bat poorly, muscle memory helps you get good at having a bad swing. It’s the same with weightlifting. If you lift but don’t do quality reps you simply won’t see the results you were looking for. Another example, are avid golfers who practice daily but have developed bad habits and therefore never improve.

We don’t really need scientific research to know muscle memory exists. We observe it everyday. I see it with my swings, tennis players with their serves, and professional golfers with their swings.


The more I read about muscle memory it became evident that the scientific research is aimed at trying to understand how the body functions to create muscle memory than to prove that it exists. I don’t believe in magic so understanding the science behind muscle memory makes sense to me.

It’s no surprise that the key to movement, memory and all of our body’s abilities come from the brain. Muscle memory is no different. According to  James Houk, a professor at Northwestern University, It’s not the muscle storing the memory but rather an area in the brain that stores information and signals the body to perform. Mark Hallett, MD who runs the Human Motor Control Section at the National Institute of Health is focused on studying brain processes and how movement becomes natural. His hope is that his research will help to understand movement disorder diseases and be able to develop treatments for them. There are many theories about where in the brain muscle memory or automatic movements are controlled. Researcher James Houk at Northwestern believes the motor cortex in the brain gets trained after movements are repeated over and over again which suggests that the motor cortex has the ability to recall and store memory. Professors at Northwestern University discuss the science behind Muscle Memory. Click here to watch a video of Northwestern professors discussing Muscle Memory.

For me, I am convinced that muscle memory exists because every time I get on the mound I no longer think about how to throw, I just throw.

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Is It The Video Games?

I wouldn’t describe myself as an avid gamer, but video games have been a source of entertainment for my brother and me from time to time. My parents maintained control over which games we played until we were about 14. At that point, they let us play whichever game we wanted, including the more violent ones. I remember my mom cringing when she would dare to glance at us finding excitement with the killing action in Call of Duty. She would often say with a mix of both humor and parental guidance that we should remember it’s not okay to kill people. I think she felt she was raising good kids who would make good choices and couldn’t fathom us doing horrific acts in real life but at the same time felt obliged to denounce the violence she saw as we sat in front of the TV in the playroom.


Just as my mom had that obligatory need to address the violence her kids were engaging in, it is easy to understand why there is so much interest in understanding whether video games actually cause violent behavior. After all, the violent acts in Columbine, and Sandy Hook were done by young adults who were exposed to and played these video games often.

Video Game Growing Popularity:

Video games are a huge category for the software development industry. According to Fortune Magazine, $23.5 billion were spent on video games in 2015.(Fortune Magazine) The computer simulation to make these games has become increasingly realistic year after year. Today’s games put the player in the game much like surround sound does for movies. As the games have become more realistic and more violent, the debate over whether they are harmful has dominated behavioral research.

After reviewing and doing a comprehensive review of many studies in this field, psychologist Brad Bushman at Ohio State University, concluded that many of the studies support the notion that these games are linked to aggressive behavior but cautions that there is no scientific evidence showing a causal relationship. Bushman suggests that violent games could act as a trigger in some way. One question that the studies have not examined is how long does the aggressive feeling last? Are they gone when the controller is put down or do they linger. The studies also do not take into account the types of people playing the games. They group together all kids between certain ages. It is very generalized.

Reputable Associations, including the American Medical Association and the National Institute of Health announced they believe there is a connection between violent games and aggressive actions. In my opinion the games de-sensitive kids and make them think that the video games are realistic and acceptable.

Here is a link to a video discussing the relationship between video games and violence. Click here to watch the video.

There are many questions and many theories about the effects of these games. Through Bushman’s research and many news stories, the frequency that this topic is discussed may suggest that video games weaken a person’s defense to do the right thing. I don’t know if violent games can increase the odds for violent behavior. Others believe that the games make violence look more acceptable. Remember my mothers need to comment while we played?

I think the challenge with many of the studies attempting to answer this question is the difficulty controlling for the human factor. We are all different and make decisions for a variety of reasons.   We often look to science to give us the answers, but in this case it seems the science has, at least for now, fallen short and unable to give us a definitive answer. What we have learned is the question is complex and worthy of continued study. In my opinion, I do not see a need to stop playing these games. However, I would be conscious of the age that people start these games at. I feel older kids may have a better response than if young kids play these games.


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Level up! Video Game Industry Revenues Soar in 2015









Cramming for Exams or Going to Bed?

Cramming for Exams or Going to Bed?

In our society, people are busy rushing from one thing to another. In my first weeks of college, I have been in high gear, going to classes, figuring out how to find assignments in Angel, studying, rushing fraternities, and working out. We all seem to work hard and have long days. Many of us, myself included, are lacking something very important. Some say it is one of the most vital aspects to maintaining good health. This elusive thing is sleep! I have been told my whole life that you need eight hours of sleep to be able to do well in school. In order to think clearly and learn new information you need sleep. If this is really true, then procrastination and pulling an “all nighter” is not the way to go when preparing for exams. So, after a semester of studying should I cram for that final or go to bed and hope for the best? Which approach will give me the best chance for success?

I did some Internet research and found many studies heralding the importance of sleep when trying to learn new information. According to Susan Gaidos, the first recored research on sleep was in1924. (Society for Neuroscience) According to studies done by the Sleep Foundation, while sleeping, the brain is still working to lock in new information and events from the past day.(Sleep Foundation) Another study done in 2001 by Matt Wilson of MIT looked at the brain activity of rats while they were sleeping. They also observed brain activity in the same rats while they went through a maze. While the rats slept there was a distinct brain pattern they kept reciting. It was the same pattern that was played as the rats ran through the maze. This would lead one to believe the rat’s brain was replaying the events from the day trying to memorize and retain it. In my opinion this experiment was done well and is reliable. However, you do have to consider that rats and humans have different sized brains and they may not work the same way as they are sleeping.


In this graph it is clear that the average person has a much higher grade point average if they were able to get enough sleep. From personal experience, the longer a person is awake for, the less attentive and precise they are. Therefore, their grades slip. Researchers at Harvard Medical School suggested sleep was a necessary component for learning. In their study, subjects took a visual, motor sequence and motor adaptation test. The grades of subjects taking the test after a full night sleep was compared to the same subjects performance after they were kept awake. Although the grades were improved when re-taking the test, in both scenarios the improvements were highest when they had more sleep. In this experiment the x-variable was the amount of sleep. As the scientists manipulated the x-variable, they were able to see that the results differed.

What is really happening when we sleep?

Scientists from NYU looked into the stages of sleep and suggested that during sleep there are changes in the brain are major factors to retaining and memorizing information. Researchers at NYU School of Medicine showed an increase in brain activity while people were sleeping. They compared the amount of synapses in mice that were kept awake, with mice that were allowed to sleep for hours. They found the mice kept awake had less new synapses formed in same amount of time.(NYU Langone)

In the video located on this page, it will explain how sleep affects the brain. You can find the video by clicking here.

After reading these articles and seeing the numerous titles of articles promoting the benefits of sleep, I am beginning to be convinced that the brain is still working while we sleep and solidifying what we have already learned that day. Now back to cramming vs. sleeping. I would conclude from the research I read that I am likely to learn information by pulling an all nighter, but I am more likely to retain that information for the next day if I study and get a night of sleep before the next day’s exam. One study supporting this was done at UCLA, which showed 535 high school students got worse grades on tests when they had less sleep. Ironically, the students were cramming, trying to actually do well on the exams.

People generally think of sleep as a time to rest. However, in reality it is actually a time to retain and secure into memory events and knowledge learned during the day. I think the key takeaway here is that a) sleep is not a replacement for studying, and b) studying without sleep is not as beneficial as studying with sleep. Therefore, if the choice were cramming without sleep versus studying and sleeping the night before an exam, I would choose the latter.





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Science? More like magic

Hi, my name is Michael Garawitz. I am from Short Hills, New Jersey. I am about 30 minutes from New York City. I am currently a freshmen in the Division of undergraduate studies. I plan to transfer into the Business School and plan to major in economics or accounting.

During my orientation, I decided that I wanted to take a few classes that were vastly different than what I intend to major in. I wanted to try something out thats new. As I was reading about the classes, they all seemed incredibly boring. I knew I didn’t want to study the middle ages again, or learn about Greek and Roman history for the hundredth time. I saw this class and the course description caught my eye. “A science class for students who do not want to be scientists”. That sounded interesting. I kept reading and it said that I didn’t need any prior knowledge of anything regarding science. For a one semester course, I don’t mind trying something new. Before I begin to have all my classes focused around my major, I definitely wanted to take some cool and interesting classes. I actually found an interesting article that is related to what we will be learning in this class. You can find it here

I don’t hate science, however I am just not a huge fan of it. I never have been in High School. I just don’t find learning about organisms and species and genes to be very interesting. I would much rather learn about politics or the economy. I realize that science is important and I am grateful that there are people who actually like it. But, I’m not one of those people.