Automaticity Part 2

I introduced the word Automaticity in my last post.

According to Wikipedia, learning, repetition and practice eventually allow the brain the ability to automatically respond.   An automatic response means that the mind is not trying to figure out the how to do it part (any more) of doing a task.   The how to do it part becomes automatic.  The mind just responds or acts out of habit.

You may not have even known that there is a procedural part and an action part of doing tasks. That is because by the time we are adults, most of the how to do it part is automatic.   When who to do something becomes automatic, its called procedural memory. When I had my brain injury, I learned that one of the connections that I had lost was procedural memory for a lot of everyday tasks.   I have had to relearn a lot of procedural memory in order to do daily tasks.

The one I have had to work the hardest on is driving.   I remembered that you had to put the key in to the ignition to start the car.  However, there are a lot of tasks that you do when you drive, like remembering to adjust the mirror and remembering to put the car into gear that were all automatic tasks that I executed in the right order without consciously thinking about them.    After my brain injury, I had to relearn them and consciously “tell” my brain to do them and in what order until they became automatic again.

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Its amazing to me when I all of a sudden find that I am doing something automatically, again.   Its amazing because with my injury, I am really conscious of the work I have to do to get my brain to do a task when my brain isn’t acting automatically and how much energy it takes out of me to do that.

So when I have practiced at a task enough that I have learned the steps and the automaticity all of a sudden kicks in, its noticeable to me.

What’s noticeable?

Its noticeable that I don’t have to think so hard about how to make a task happen.

Its noticeable that the task happens much smoother than it was previously.  It just sort of happens, suddenly.

If I made myself describe it, it would be like the difference between consciously climbing up a steep hill versus going down a slide.

Until the automaticity kicks in, I need to think about how I am going to put each part of my body (in this case my hand and foot) and I need to think about what order to put them in and readjust depending on whether I have put them in the right place to get up the cliff.   And since I am re-building the procedural memory, I may not have the right connections — yet — to tell me what my next move is and I may just get stumped.  I may need someone else to tell me, hey, put this hand here.   It may be obvious to them where my next move might be, but its not yet connected for me, so what’s obvious to another person may not have occurred to me at all.

Then suddenly, when the automaticity kicks in, its like the steep hill that was so challenging becomes a slide, and it just suddenly is easy to accomplish the task.  Its so easy to accomplish the tasks when it all kicks in that I can hardly believe how hard I had to struggle before.

I know that my analogy is difficult to understand because the steep hill is upward and a slide goes downward.   So maybe not the greatest analogy but all I can think of.   Maybe a good way to think about it is the kids game “Chutes and Ladders”.

One climbs a ladder to go a distance or one slides down a Chute to go a distance.   Its easier to go the distance by sliding than by climbing.

When I don’t have to work so hard anymore on the procedure of getting a task done, I use less energy.

So I still have energy to do other tasks.

So I can do more tasks and do them well.

Hence some of the euphoria of “I did it!”

I did several tasks and I completed them and I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to do several tasks and complete them before the automaticity kicked in  88888

Wikipedia says that it is learning, repetition and practice that are the impetus for the automaticity.

My experience is that my vision therapy exercises are impetus also.  Perhaps that is what Dr Sue Barry is telling me when I tried to describe my experience of neuroplasticity several months ago.

And now, I need to figure out what the relationship between automaticity and neuroplasticity which I do not understand yet.

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Saturday I woke up early and realized I was thinking about how to go about organizing my advocacy work this fall.

I was thinking about how to think!

Like I have talked about before, for me re-organizing, or suddenly seeing how to organize concepts and things I previously had more difficulty organizing is a sign that my brain is going through some big changes.

I did not recognize it as such.

But I was up early and my son likes to watch video games in the morning, so I had a moment to myself.  I found myself reorganizing my clothes drawer.   I just started doing it, taking out summer clothes and sorting out clothes that I won’t wear again til spring.

When I feel this organizing urge, I am always surprised by that I can suddenly “see” how poorly the organization was previously.    There were clothes in the drawer that I haven’t worn in a couple of years, and I wondered why I had never put these clothes somewhere that I don’t look at them every day.  I realized it would take less energy to move them elsewhere (or give them away), that it would looking at them every day when I open the drawer.   They are taking space that would be better unused and make getting dressed much easier for me.

Later in the day, I realized I had begun seeing more depth when I looked at plants (things were there is a lot of depth for ones vision to indulge in).    Like I have said before, I often notice that I am seeing more depth suddenly when by brain  is reorganizing.

I wanted to write all these things down as I always know its a good sign when I realize my brain is reorganizing (following the hard work I am doing with vision therapy to get it to change).

Its a little crazy for me when my brain re-organizes because I am not used to it yet.   But I know to roll with it and that I will adapt to the way my brain has changed with some time.

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