Events like the Wimbledon tennis championships and the Olympic Games raise the public profile of competitive sports, but what sets the competitors in these events apart from those of us who simply watch? Recent research into the differences in neural and cognitive processing between skilled sportspeople and novices is reviewed in the August 2009 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience. The conclusions help to explain athletic excellence and potentially offer ways to improve performance.
Kielan Yarrow and colleagues introduce emerging computational and biological models of skill learning and movement control through the central nervous system. Studies have shown that the development of skills associated with awareness and movement correlates with structural changes in primary sensory areas in the brain and with those areas associated with movement. Functional imaging studies suggest that athletes make more efficient and focused use of these brain regions, which could explain the enhanced movement, awareness, and decision-making abilities developed by elite athletes over extensive periods of practice.
The authors also highlight the role of feedback control and the parallel processing of information in the brain in improving the precision of movements, making good time-pressured decisions and predicting the sporting consequences of actions.
Kielan Yarrow (City University, London, UK)
Peter Brown (Institute of Neurology, UCL, London, UK)
John Krakauer (The Neurological Institute of New York, NY, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Reviews Neuroscience press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza