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A new study found that just imagining arm exercises created a tangible effect on the body.
“If there are jocks on one side, and it’s a confrontation, the other side, by definition, has to be nerds,” David Anderegg wrote of what he calls the “archetypal struggle” in Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them.
Of course, there are moments—mostly in Disney musicals—when both camps lay down their footballs and their calculators and realize that really, brain and brawn aren’t mutually exclusive—that, in fact, they have more in common than they ever thought.
This is one of those moments.
In a small study recently published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers found that much of muscle strength is based on brain activity, rather than on the mass of the muscles themselves. Researchers at Ohio University’s Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute, 29 volunteers had their non-dominant arms placed in elbow-to-finger casts for four weeks. (Fifteen others acted as a cast-free control group.) Of the 29, 14 were asked to perform mental-imagery exercises five days a week, imagining themselves alternately flexing and resting their immobilized wrists for five-second intervals.