Hack #88. Think Yourself Strong

You can train your strength and skill with imagination alone, showing that there’s a lot more to limb control than mere muscle size.

How your brain controls your muscles is something you don’t notice until it goes wrong. When you drop a plate for no good reason, when disease or age rob you of the ability to will your muscles to move just like that, when you can’t stop your legs trembling (even though that is possibly the least useful thing they could be doing in your situation), then you notice the gap between what you want to happen and what your muscles do. Normally the coordination of body movement happens so smoothly and (seemingly) instantaneously that it’s hard to really believe there are any gaps in these processes. Hold your finger up in front of your face. Watch it carefully. And...ready...curl it. Magic. How did that happen? It’s impossible to truly introspect about the control system involved: our bodies appear to be the ultimate pieces of invisible technology.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a very complex system of control in place. It needs to be complex for the range of jobs done, at the speeds they’re done. The standard visuomotor feedback loop (the delay between acting and getting visual information to update or correct that action) is 100–200 milliseconds, 1 so much of this control has to happen without the aid of direct guidance from the senses. Movement must be controlled, at least in part, by processes that do not require immediate ...

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