Sensory-Motor Amnesia (SMA)

Sensory-Motor Amnesia (SMA) is the process by which patterns in the central nervous system become habituated to the point they can no longer be released voluntarily. More specifically, it is the relationship between the nervous system and the somatic muscular system that loses voluntary control.

Anatomy of SMA

Muscles have no control over what actions they perform without a signal from the brain through the nervous system. Nerves go to and come from muscles to send and receive signals back from the muscle. This is our proprioceptive awareness. We sense whether a muscle is contracted or relaxed, this is our inner sense of ourselves, our “soma”- our proprioception. Throughout life, we learn new activities and tasks, and these tasks are stored in our brains in our unconscious, so we don’t have to re-learn them every time we need to perform. Oftentimes, this is a good thing, but occasionally we store patterns that cause us pain.

When we repeat patterns because of repeated action in our daily activities, or from a sudden action from injury or protection from injury, sometimes our brains get “stuck” in that action, moving that habituated pattern in our unconscious, out of our voluntary control. The brain continues to send the signal to “contract” to the muscles, even though the action is no longer needed. This creates an interruption in the feedback loop within the nervous system, causing the brain to “forget” that the muscle is contracted. To the brain, the muscle is relaxed, and no amount of massage, or telling the muscle to “relax!” will cause that feedback loop to be re-established. This is where pandiculation can help.

How CSE and pandiculation can help correct SMA:

Pandiculation helps create communication between the brain and the muscles. It is a part of our proprioception – our first person awareness of ourselves. If you were to simply say to your muscles “relax”, that is form a third person point of view, the muscle has no way to receive or understand that message. We have to use our proprioception to regain voluntary control of our muscular system. By contracting more deeply into the habituated pattern (into the muscles affected by SMA), we reestablish communication within the nervous system. The brain is able to once again recognize that control over the contraction. By slowly releasing the muscle from that deep contraction, the brain maintains the feedback loop to and from the muscle, resetting the level of what it recognizes as a “relaxed” and a “contracted” muscle. This is pandiculation.

Practice of daily Somatic exercises and explorations help to establish these healthy patterns, preventing SMA. It is especially important to practice first thing in the morning. When we sleep, our brains take our voluntary nervous system “off line” in a sense, preventing us from using our muscles during dream states. When we wake up in the morning, we come back “on line”, putting all of our habituated patterns back for immediate use. When we practice Somatic Explorations first thing in the morning, this is the first information that our brains get. It is the hope that by giving the brain healthy habits during this “boot up” phase in the morning, we prevent the unhealthy habits of SMA.

~ Carrie Day, rev.11/25/2022,