full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Annie Bosler and Don Greene: How to practice effectively...for just about anything

Unscramble the Blue Letters

mertansig any physical skill, be it performing a putierote, piaylng an instrument, or throwing a baseball, takes practice. Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence. So what does practice do in our brains to make us better at things? Our brains have two kinds of neural tissue: grey matter and white matter. The grey matter processes information in the brain, diecirtng signals and sensory stimuli to nerve cells, while whtie matter is mostly made up of fatty tissue and nerve fibers. In order for our bodies to move, information needs to travel from the brain's grey matter, down the spnial cord, through a chain of nvere fibers called axons to our muscles. So how does practice or repetition affect the inner workings of our brains? The axons that exsit in the white mttaer are wrapped with a ftaty substance called myelin. And it's this myelin covering, or sheath, that seems to change with pacritce. Myelin is similar to insulation on electrical cables. It pervents energy loss from electrical sanligs that the biran uses, moving them more efficiently along neural pathways. Some recent studies in mice suggest that the reittoiepn of a physical motion increases the layers of myelin sthaeh that insulates the axons. And the more layers, the graeetr the insulation around the axon chains, forming a sort of superhighway for information connecting your brain to your muscles. So while many athletes and performers attribute their successes to mulcse memory, mlcsues themselves don't really have memory. Rather, it may be the myelination of neural phaywtas that gives these athletes and performers their edge with faster and more efficient neural pathways. There are many theories that attempt to quantify the number of hours, days, and even years of practice that it takes to mesatr a skill. While we don't yet have a magic number, we do know that mastery isn't simply about the amount of hours of practice. It's also the quality and effectiveness of that practice. Effective practice is consistent, intensely focused, and targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one's curnret abilities. So if effective practice is the key, how can we get the most out of our practice time? Try these tips. Focus on the task at hand. Minimize potential distractions by tniunrg off the computer or TV and putting your cell phone on airplane mode. In one study, researchers oebservd 260 students studying. On average, those students were able to stay on task for only six minutes at a time. Laptops, smartphones, and particularly Facebook were the root of most distractions. srtat out sllwoy or in slow-motion. ctoioanrdion is built with rteepnitios, whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the seped of the quality repntteois, you have a better chance of doing them correctly. Next, frequent repetitions with allotted breaks are cmoomn practice habits of elite performers. Studies have shwon that many top athletes, musicians, and dancers spend 50-60 hours per week on activities related to their craft. Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple dliay practice sessions of limited duration. And finally, practice in your brain in vivid detail. It's a bit surprising, but a number of studies susgegt that once a physical motion has been established, it can be reinforced just by imagining it. In one study, 144 basketball players were divided into two gpours. Group A physically prceictad one-handed free tohwrs while Group B only mentally practiced them. When they were tested at the end of the two week experiment, the intermediate and experienced players in both groups had improved by nearly the same amount. As scientists get closer to unraveling the sertces of our brains, our understanding of effective practice will only improve. In the meantime, effective practice is the best way we have of pushing our individual liitms, achieving new hihgets, and maximizing our potential.

Open Cloze

_________ any physical skill, be it performing a _________, _______ an instrument, or throwing a baseball, takes practice. Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence. So what does practice do in our brains to make us better at things? Our brains have two kinds of neural tissue: grey matter and white matter. The grey matter processes information in the brain, _________ signals and sensory stimuli to nerve cells, while _____ matter is mostly made up of fatty tissue and nerve fibers. In order for our bodies to move, information needs to travel from the brain's grey matter, down the ______ cord, through a chain of _____ fibers called axons to our muscles. So how does practice or repetition affect the inner workings of our brains? The axons that _____ in the white ______ are wrapped with a _____ substance called myelin. And it's this myelin covering, or sheath, that seems to change with ________. Myelin is similar to insulation on electrical cables. It ________ energy loss from electrical _______ that the _____ uses, moving them more efficiently along neural pathways. Some recent studies in mice suggest that the __________ of a physical motion increases the layers of myelin ______ that insulates the axons. And the more layers, the _______ the insulation around the axon chains, forming a sort of superhighway for information connecting your brain to your muscles. So while many athletes and performers attribute their successes to ______ memory, _______ themselves don't really have memory. Rather, it may be the myelination of neural ________ that gives these athletes and performers their edge with faster and more efficient neural pathways. There are many theories that attempt to quantify the number of hours, days, and even years of practice that it takes to ______ a skill. While we don't yet have a magic number, we do know that mastery isn't simply about the amount of hours of practice. It's also the quality and effectiveness of that practice. Effective practice is consistent, intensely focused, and targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one's _______ abilities. So if effective practice is the key, how can we get the most out of our practice time? Try these tips. Focus on the task at hand. Minimize potential distractions by _______ off the computer or TV and putting your cell phone on airplane mode. In one study, researchers ________ 260 students studying. On average, those students were able to stay on task for only six minutes at a time. Laptops, smartphones, and particularly Facebook were the root of most distractions. _____ out ______ or in slow-motion. ____________ is built with ___________, whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the _____ of the quality __________, you have a better chance of doing them correctly. Next, frequent repetitions with allotted breaks are ______ practice habits of elite performers. Studies have _____ that many top athletes, musicians, and dancers spend 50-60 hours per week on activities related to their craft. Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple _____ practice sessions of limited duration. And finally, practice in your brain in vivid detail. It's a bit surprising, but a number of studies _______ that once a physical motion has been established, it can be reinforced just by imagining it. In one study, 144 basketball players were divided into two ______. Group A physically _________ one-handed free ______ while Group B only mentally practiced them. When they were tested at the end of the two week experiment, the intermediate and experienced players in both groups had improved by nearly the same amount. As scientists get closer to unraveling the _______ of our brains, our understanding of effective practice will only improve. In the meantime, effective practice is the best way we have of pushing our individual ______, achieving new _______, and maximizing our potential.

Solution

  1. repetitions
  2. directing
  3. current
  4. suggest
  5. coordination
  6. mastering
  7. nerve
  8. master
  9. shown
  10. signals
  11. groups
  12. muscle
  13. speed
  14. prevents
  15. practice
  16. repetition
  17. muscles
  18. common
  19. observed
  20. fatty
  21. heights
  22. exist
  23. greater
  24. matter
  25. turning
  26. start
  27. throws
  28. practiced
  29. pathways
  30. pirouette
  31. slowly
  32. white
  33. repetitons
  34. daily
  35. brain
  36. playing
  37. secrets
  38. spinal
  39. limits
  40. sheath

Original Text

Mastering any physical skill, be it performing a pirouette, playing an instrument, or throwing a baseball, takes practice. Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence. So what does practice do in our brains to make us better at things? Our brains have two kinds of neural tissue: grey matter and white matter. The grey matter processes information in the brain, directing signals and sensory stimuli to nerve cells, while white matter is mostly made up of fatty tissue and nerve fibers. In order for our bodies to move, information needs to travel from the brain's grey matter, down the spinal cord, through a chain of nerve fibers called axons to our muscles. So how does practice or repetition affect the inner workings of our brains? The axons that exist in the white matter are wrapped with a fatty substance called myelin. And it's this myelin covering, or sheath, that seems to change with practice. Myelin is similar to insulation on electrical cables. It prevents energy loss from electrical signals that the brain uses, moving them more efficiently along neural pathways. Some recent studies in mice suggest that the repetition of a physical motion increases the layers of myelin sheath that insulates the axons. And the more layers, the greater the insulation around the axon chains, forming a sort of superhighway for information connecting your brain to your muscles. So while many athletes and performers attribute their successes to muscle memory, muscles themselves don't really have memory. Rather, it may be the myelination of neural pathways that gives these athletes and performers their edge with faster and more efficient neural pathways. There are many theories that attempt to quantify the number of hours, days, and even years of practice that it takes to master a skill. While we don't yet have a magic number, we do know that mastery isn't simply about the amount of hours of practice. It's also the quality and effectiveness of that practice. Effective practice is consistent, intensely focused, and targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one's current abilities. So if effective practice is the key, how can we get the most out of our practice time? Try these tips. Focus on the task at hand. Minimize potential distractions by turning off the computer or TV and putting your cell phone on airplane mode. In one study, researchers observed 260 students studying. On average, those students were able to stay on task for only six minutes at a time. Laptops, smartphones, and particularly Facebook were the root of most distractions. Start out slowly or in slow-motion. Coordination is built with repetitions, whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the speed of the quality repetitons, you have a better chance of doing them correctly. Next, frequent repetitions with allotted breaks are common practice habits of elite performers. Studies have shown that many top athletes, musicians, and dancers spend 50-60 hours per week on activities related to their craft. Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration. And finally, practice in your brain in vivid detail. It's a bit surprising, but a number of studies suggest that once a physical motion has been established, it can be reinforced just by imagining it. In one study, 144 basketball players were divided into two groups. Group A physically practiced one-handed free throws while Group B only mentally practiced them. When they were tested at the end of the two week experiment, the intermediate and experienced players in both groups had improved by nearly the same amount. As scientists get closer to unraveling the secrets of our brains, our understanding of effective practice will only improve. In the meantime, effective practice is the best way we have of pushing our individual limits, achieving new heights, and maximizing our potential.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
effective practice 5
white matter 3
neural pathways 3
grey matter 2
nerve fibers 2
physical motion 2

Important Words

  1. abilities
  2. achieving
  3. action
  4. activities
  5. affect
  6. airplane
  7. allotted
  8. amount
  9. athletes
  10. attempt
  11. attribute
  12. average
  13. axon
  14. axons
  15. baseball
  16. basketball
  17. bit
  18. bodies
  19. brain
  20. brains
  21. breaks
  22. built
  23. cables
  24. called
  25. cell
  26. cells
  27. chain
  28. chains
  29. chance
  30. change
  31. closer
  32. common
  33. computer
  34. confidence
  35. connecting
  36. consistent
  37. content
  38. coordination
  39. cord
  40. correct
  41. correctly
  42. covering
  43. craft
  44. current
  45. daily
  46. dancers
  47. days
  48. detail
  49. directing
  50. distractions
  51. divide
  52. divided
  53. duration
  54. ease
  55. edge
  56. effective
  57. effectiveness
  58. efficient
  59. efficiently
  60. electrical
  61. elite
  62. energy
  63. established
  64. exist
  65. experienced
  66. experiment
  67. facebook
  68. faster
  69. fatty
  70. fibers
  71. finally
  72. focus
  73. focused
  74. forming
  75. free
  76. frequent
  77. goal
  78. gradually
  79. greater
  80. grey
  81. group
  82. groups
  83. habits
  84. hand
  85. heights
  86. helps
  87. hours
  88. imagining
  89. improve
  90. improved
  91. improvement
  92. incorrect
  93. increase
  94. increases
  95. individual
  96. information
  97. instrument
  98. insulates
  99. insulation
  100. intensely
  101. intermediate
  102. key
  103. kinds
  104. laptops
  105. layers
  106. lie
  107. limited
  108. limits
  109. loss
  110. magic
  111. master
  112. mastering
  113. mastery
  114. matter
  115. maximizing
  116. memory
  117. mentally
  118. mice
  119. minimize
  120. minutes
  121. mode
  122. motion
  123. move
  124. moving
  125. multiple
  126. muscle
  127. muscles
  128. musicians
  129. myelin
  130. myelination
  131. nerve
  132. neural
  133. number
  134. observed
  135. order
  136. pathways
  137. perform
  138. performers
  139. performing
  140. phone
  141. physical
  142. physically
  143. pirouette
  144. players
  145. playing
  146. potential
  147. practice
  148. practiced
  149. prevents
  150. processes
  151. pushing
  152. putting
  153. quality
  154. quantify
  155. reinforced
  156. related
  157. repetition
  158. repetitions
  159. repetitons
  160. researchers
  161. root
  162. scientists
  163. secrets
  164. sensory
  165. sessions
  166. sheath
  167. shown
  168. signals
  169. similar
  170. simply
  171. skill
  172. slowly
  173. smartphones
  174. sort
  175. speed
  176. spend
  177. spinal
  178. start
  179. stay
  180. stimuli
  181. students
  182. studies
  183. study
  184. studying
  185. substance
  186. successes
  187. suggest
  188. superhighway
  189. surprising
  190. takes
  191. targets
  192. task
  193. tested
  194. theories
  195. throwing
  196. throws
  197. time
  198. tips
  199. tissue
  200. top
  201. travel
  202. turning
  203. tv
  204. understanding
  205. unraveling
  206. vivid
  207. weaknesses
  208. week
  209. white
  210. workings
  211. wrapped
  212. years