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Classroom Activities: Mirror-Tracing Activity


To accompany the lecture series Making Your Mind: Molecules, Motion, and Memory.

When we discuss memories, we often mean memories of facts and events: What you did last Sunday, the capital of Austria, your best friend’s cell phone number.

There is another kind of memory that is largely unconscious, but very important. We learn and remember essential skills, such as walking, using chopsticks, or riding a bicycle.

The mirror-tracing activity is a visual and motor test that involves learning a new motor skill. The task requires you to move a pencil to trace the diagram of a star while looking at your hand only as a reflection in a mirror. The act of drawing is a learned skill that requires visual and proprioceptive feedback to control muscle movement.

By concentrated effort, can we overcome a reversed visual field and follow new rules? Can we learn these new rules and improve with practice? The results obtained from students attending the 2008 Holiday Lectures on Science were pooled together, and the data compared to other groups, including a famous patient referred to as HM.

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