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‘Like Riding a Bike’ – Why Do We Always Remember How?

You’ve heard the saying “it’s just like riding a bike,” but have you ever wondered if there was scientific data to back up the notion that it’s impossible to forget how to ride a bike? Well, research recently published by Nature Neuroscience may have the answer.

Beach BikeNeuroscientists at the University of Aberdeen have completed a study that proves that there is in fact a scientific reason that once we learn how to ride a bike, we’ll always know how to, no matter how frequently we practice. According to Phys.org, University of Aberdeen neuroscientists have hypothesized that there is a key nerve cell in the brain’s cerebellum that controls the creation of motor skill memories, like riding a bike and using a fork. Once you first learn a specific motor skill, this part of your brain stores it as a memory. It’s convenient to never forget how to hold a pencil, of course, but why is it that you may not be able to remember what you had for lunch last Tuesday, but you’ll never forget how to ride a bike?

Well, as it turns out, motor skill memories are saved on your brain’s ‘hard drive’ so to speak, in a different way than things that you may encounter in your day-to-day life. BrainLagoon.com says that long-term memories are basically split into two types: declarative memory and procedural memory.

Declarative memory is explicit memory that refers to information that your brain has stored that helps you understand the world around you. Procedural memory, on the other hand, is your brain’s way of helping your body remember how to do things, like type on your computer or stand on one leg.

Procedural memories are stored in our brains in a way that makes them nearly impossible to forget; instead of feeling like a real memory, the things that are stored in your procedural memory seem like ordinary movements, like tying your shoes. These types of memories are primarily stored in the subconscious, so you’re not aware of knowing how to ride a bike, rather it’s just something that your brain keeps on file for you for when you need it.

There are some things that we learn that we are apt to forget if we don’t practice, like skiing for some people, but riding a bike is so natural to your body, and embedded so deep within your memory, that you will never forget how to do it.

If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in a while and want to give this theory a test, come down to Nantucket for the weekend and rent some bikes from us at the Nantucket Bike Shop. We bet that you’ll remember how to ride our bikes in no time, and have a blast doing it! To learn more, give us a call at 800-770-3088. Our 2016 season opens in April, so plan your trip today!

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