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Why this simple finger trick forces your foot to change direction

Why this simple finger trick forces your foot to change direction

This foot and finger trick is mind-blowing.

Our bodies are so amazing and weird. The fact that human beings have gone from banging rocks together to creating the most intricately detailed works of art is a testament to what our bodies can do. Just think about the kinds of physical feats we (well, some of us, anyway) have mastered, from brain surgery to playing musical instruments to Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics.

Humans are marvels. Through coordination and balance and muscle training and practice, there are so many incredible things our bodies can do.

But honest to goodness, I cannot make my foot not change direction while doing this stupid physical trick.

It goes like this:

Sitting in a chair, lift your right foot off the ground a few inches and rotate your foot to the right (clockwise), making a circle in the air. While making that circle, use your right finger and draw the number "6" in the air.


I tried this a dozen times. A full 12 in a row. And every single time, no matter how hard I would concentrate, my foot would change direction as soon as I started to draw the "6." I tried it fast. I tried it slow. I tried concentrating only on my foot or only on the "6." It didn't matter. My finger influenced what my foot was doing no matter what.

It's not a new trick, but it was new to me and to the people who responded to a tweet sharing the trick with various iterations of "What is this sorcery?!?"

If you are one of those people who were able to do it without any problem, congrats. You have some kind of superhuman coordination.

That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. My teen and young adult children were somehow able to keep their foot going clockwise. One of them is a musician and one is left-handed, so maybe that's why? Drummers and ballet dancers in the comments said they didn't have any problem with it.

As it turns out, there is a scientific explanation for why it's pretty much impossible for most of us.

The Curious Crew folks at Michigan State University explain why it works:

"The cerebellum part of the brain manages body movements, like the circling of the foot or the drawing of the number 6. However, the nerve fibers from the right side of the body cross the brain stem and connect with the left side of the brain, just as the fibers on the left side of the body connect with the right side of the brain. When you try to draw the number 6 with your right hand, those signals are coming from the left side of the brain. Even though circling your foot is easy to do in either direction, you cannot rotate your foot in the opposite motion of the drawn six at the same moment. The left side of the brain cannot manage two opposite movements in the same moment, so the brain combines the movement to a similar motion. When you switch to the left foot, there is no problem because the right side of the brain controls your foot movement, while the left side can focus on drawing the number 6."

So there you have it. The old brain controlling the two sides of your body thing. Clearly, there must be a way to train yourself to not have your foot wig out when making the "6" in the air, so pardon me while I spend the next six hours trying to make my body do my bidding.

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