Monthly Archives: May 2011

A more sport-specific approach to athletic brain training

via Axon Sports

Over the last week we’ve looked at some specific research and training programs that aim to train everything that happens inside an athlete’s head. At the University of Montreal we highlighted a program focused on a more general approach to cognitive training. We also looked at sports vision training and how it visual and perceptual-cognitive training differ.  The theory behind these types of training is that an athlete can train “general” skills, like motion tracking, general hand-eye coordination training, vision or reaction time training, and that the gains made from that training are then transferable to higher-order, more complex tasks, like hitting a baseball. There are also research paradigms that stress …

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Just Plain Interesting

via Axon Sports

The feature story in this week’s New York Times Magazine is about Tatiana and Krista McKay, a pair of twins who are conjoined at the head and share a connection through the brain.  The implications are mind-blowing: Suddenly the girls sat up again, with renewed energy, and Krista reached for a cup with a straw in the corner of the crib. “I am drinking really, really, really, really fast,” she announced and started to power-slurp her juice, her face screwed up with the effort. Tatiana was, as always, sitting beside her but not looking at her, and suddenly her eyes went wide. She put her hand right below her sternum, and …

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Neuroplasticity and the athletic brain (cont.)

via Axon Sports

Last week we looked at several studies that demonstrated evidence of neuroplasticity in athletes’ brains–and saw that the brain physically changes and even grows with training and expertise.  Brains, however, don’t exactly work like muscles, which keep growing and growing as they get stronger.  After all, the skull is a fairly constrictive space, so growth in the cortex obviously has to stop at some point. A new Scientific American article does a good job of discussing new findings around this more nuanced way that the brain grows changes.  The basic overview is that acquiring a new skill leads to an initial burst of increased size in associated brain areas, but that …

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Hardware Vs. Software: Does Sports Vision Training Work?

via Axon Sports

Yesterday we looked at a new study that compared the pre- and post-training visual performance of athletes who used Nike’s new Vapor Strobes vs. a control group.  The study aimed to test whether athletes’ visual performance increased after using the strobe goggles, which have lenses that flicker between clear and opaque to reduce the amount of visual information that the athlete receives, and found modest effects in some areas, none in others. It makes for a nice jumping-off point to talk about the field of “sports vision training”, “eye training” or “sensory training” and the hardware vs. software debate around which skills in the visual-perceptual-cognitive system are most apt to improve …

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Nike Strobe Specs may or may not improve visual-perceptual performance

via Axon Sports

Limiting the amount of visual and perceptual information that an athlete receives is quickly becoming a new frontier in performance training.  A couple weeks ago we looked at the special anticipatory skills of elite athletes and the way that they are able to use only the most relevant visual information to predict future events.  Now, a new study* out of Duke University’s Visual Cognition lab reports the results of an experiment in which the effects on visual-perceptual function of Nike’s new Vapor Strobe goggles** were tested on a population of Duke club and varsity athletes across a variety of sports. The strobe eyeware essentially creates an experience in which the wearer’s …

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Cognitive Training for Athletes

via Axon Sports

The past few posts have discussed ideas around deliberate practice, neuroplasticity and how they might relate to sport-specific performance training.  Here we’ll look at one specific place, the University of Montreal, and the programs that they are developing around cognitive training for sport. Most of the research coming out of the University of Montreal in this area has been conducted by the Visual Perception and Psychophysics laboratory, which is run by professor Jocelyn Faubert.  The lab focuses on research around the human perceptual system: the ability to track moving objects, how the brain simultaneously integrates information from our different senses, and how we perceive motion.  And in the course of this …

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Way out into the future: performance enhancing brain stimulation

via Axon Sports

The feature story in this week’s New York Times Science section covers the potential applications of a novel technique for directly stimulating the brain via genetically engineered neurons that respond to light.  The story is illustrative of the truly exponential increases that are being made in our ability to understand and actively manipulate the brain’s function, and also of how we are increasingly approaching a point at which the ethical issues around brain stimulation and performance enhancement may become an issue as relevant as traditional, chemical doping. The process involves creating special neurons that can be controlled to either fire or not fire as a response to being stimulated by light, …

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Cognitive Flexibility

via Axon Sports

There was some fantastic discussion in the comments section of our post on neuroplasticity and elite athletes that’s worth pulling onto the main blog as a stand-alone post.  Steve Jungmann and Brian McCormick both run blogs that are very much must-reads as well. The discussion centered on both the best way to build skills and which skills are best to build.  Deliberate practice of a rote, repetitive task might make an athlete an expert at a very narrow range of movements or skills, but neglect the creativity and adaptability required to actually function on a dynamic and constantly changing field of play. Steve Jungmann: Great points and great book. This is …

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Axon Potential and Athletes’ Performance Partnership

via Axon Sports

We are very proud to announce the beginning of our partnership with Athletes’ Performance, one of the world’s top performance training centers.  This partnership will allow us to develop, validate and refine our new cognitive training programs with the help of some of the best coaches, trainers and athletes in the world.  Full release here, and below. Phoenix, AZ – Athletes’ Performance, the world leader of integrated performance training, nutrition, and rehabilitation services for the world’s elite athletes, is partnering with Axon Potential, a pioneer in cognitive training programs for competitive athletes Together, Athletes’ Performance and Axon Potential will be working on product development, user testing, and validation of the Axon …

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The subtle indicators of NFL success

via Axon Sports

Dan Peterson over at Sports are 80 Percent Mental has a really interesting, and somewhat chilling, article about a profiling system called Achievement Metrics that aims to provide professional sports teams with risk-assessment tools for evaluating the probability of a player having off-the-field character issues: Using only the transcripts from a player’s recent college press conferences or interviews, the company’s computer algorithms find patterns in a player’s words and phrases.  Its not just a few vocabulary no-no’s that set off the alarms, but rather a pattern of selected triggers from a “hot list” of over 2000 words.  So, unlike the Wonderlic IQ test that might allow for some pre-test cram sessions …

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