What is Sensory Motor Amnesia?

Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) is a term coined by Thomas Hanna PhD, the creator of Hanna Somatics, also referred to as Clinical or Essential Somatics.

What is Sensory Motor Amnesia?

In a nutshell, Sensory Motor Amnesia happens when your brain and nervous system--specifically your sensory motor cortex, the part of your brain that controls and senses movement--have lost voluntary control of how your body functions.

All motor patterns --good or bad--are learned.

Let's back up a bit and talk about how we learn to move in the first place.

When we are actively learning motor patterns--from holding our heads up as babies to swinging a golf club, from eating with a spoon to riding a bike-- neural pathways become well established between your brain and muscles. This learning period takes place in the conscious part of the brain that is eliciting voluntary actions.

Over time, once you have mastered a pattern, the learned pattern shifts from the learning part of the brain to the lower brain, sort of like the "autopilot" parts of your brain. 

Once you learn a pattern, you no longer have to think about it. The saying, "You never forget how to ride a bike." is a perfect example. There is a learning process that requires attention and intention to do any action. But once you master it, you literally never forget how.

Some people call this muscle memory, but muscles have no ability to remember anything. But your brain does!

What causes SMA?

How we repeatedly use our bodies in our daily lives can result in learned faulty patterns as well.

SMA develops when your muscles repeatedly contract and don't release to their natural resting length. This can be due to:
  • Stress -- physical and emotional
  • Trauma -- injury, surgery, car accidents, falls, etc.
  • Repetitive actions -- sports, fitness routine, sitting, hiking a baby on hip, back pack over one shoulder, etc.
  • Lack of movement -- sedentary lifestyle
As you repeatedly contract your body to do your daily activities-- such as sitting at a desk with your chest and belly contracted, your face jutting forward to read your computer monitor, your muscles are learning to put your body into this physical shape. They are contracting for hours and hours and neural pathways are becoming well established. As you do this day in and day out, and probably do it more as you drive home to and from work, and even your workouts can reenforce the patterns, muscles shorten and lose their ability to rest to their natural length.

Done repeatedly, you are actually learning to be tight and tense along the front of your body.

In time you lose full, voluntary control of how your muscles can contract and release, with ease, to their natural resting length.

Chronically contracted muscles, that are never released to their natural resting length, lead to Sensory Motor Amnesia.

With SMA, your shortened, chronically contracted muscles will distort your alignment, posture, freedom of movement, and lead to stiff achy bodies that most people attribute to age, but in reality are learned dysfunctional patterns.

Sensory Motor Amnesia does not show up in MRIs or x-rays. 

Imaging shows structure--how your bones align, fractures, etc-- not function. How you function is under the control of the your brain and nervous system.

So if you are in pain, and typical modalities aren't working, its likely because the root of the problem is not being addressed.

But don't despair. By learning and practicing somatic movements, called pandiculations, you rewire your brain and body to release all those tension patterns in your body, so you can find ease and freedom to be yourself.

Maybe you've heard the saying, "Neurons that fire together, wire together." This is the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. Your brain can change at any age, and with changes in the brain, you can change things in your life and body.

It all comes down to taking back voluntary control of how we use and sense our bodies. Ultimately it's a choice. 

If you choose to reclaim your freedom and autonomy, visit my thinksomatics.com to learn more. 

freedom and ease for all,

PS, Stretching and strengthening do NOT address SMA. Tune in next time for more info. :-)


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