Tag Archives: Neuroscience

Basketball And The BAM Project

via Axon Sports

Imagine an NCAA basketball coach trying to create a game plan for their first March Madness game with absolutely no video footage of their upcoming opponent.  Sure, he has their roster with player names, height/weight and positions.  He also has a set of specific stats that show the performance of each player and the team during the season.  Yet, there is no opportunity to see the team play as a unit, how they move the ball, or their communication.  The resulting game strategy would be full of educated guesses and assumptions based on just the macro picture of the roster and the micro world of data and statistics. Welcome to the …

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Practice Makes Perfect, Thanks To Plasticity

via Axon Sports

As kids, once we have mastered the complex motor skill of riding a bicycle, we’re told that its a lifelong skill that we’ll never forget.  Getting all of the moving parts of human and machine in sync with each other becomes a collective memory that can be called on from age 6 to 60.  Which is surprising, knowing that names, numbers and recent locations of car keys can be so easily forgotten.  What makes motor skills stick in our brains, ready to be called on at anytime?  According to two teams of cognitive science researchers, we can thank a property called neuroplasticity which actually changes the structure of our brain as …

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The Mysteries Of The Teenage Sports Brain

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It seems so easy sitting in the stands.  Watching their high school athlete, parents are perplexed when bad decisions are made on the field, not to mention at home and school.  What seems so logical to coaches and fans, especially over the age of 30, is often lost on the adolescent brains of prep players.  Do they just not care?  Will it take even more practice and drills to get it right?  Could it be teenagers are just wired differently?  According to a social cognition expert, that’s exactly what’s happening. Traditional child development theory takes us from birth to the beginning of the awkward years that are triggered by the physical …

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The Growth Of Rory McIlroy’s Brain

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At the young age of 22, Rory McIlroy is one of the top players on the PGA tour, while mere mortal golfers wish they could play half as well as the young Irishman. Well, chances are Rory’s brain actually has more gray matter than the average weekend duffer. Researchers at the University of Zurich have found that expert golfers have a higher volume of the gray-colored, closely packed neuron cell bodies that are known to be involved with muscle control. The good news is that, like Rory, golfers who start young and commit to years of practice can also grow their brains while their handicaps shrink. Executing a good golf swing …

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MIT Sloan Sports Conference Mixes Jocks And Brains

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For most of us growing up, there were two distinct groups of students in our high schools, the Jocks and the Brains.  While they pretended not to like each other, there was an unspoken mutual respect.  Just as the Jocks wished they could learn concepts and do homework as quickly as the Brains, the Brains dreamed of athletic glory.   This weekend in Boston, they are reunited at the equitably named MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.  In its sixth year, the SSAC has grown from 175 people, mostly students, to this year’s sold out event where over 2,200 attendees will gather at the Hynes Convention Center.  Combining new research, data and …

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The Synapse – Video Games, Building Blocks and Your Brain’s Dark Energy

via Axon Sports

To get your budding superstar ready for his sports future, should they play with high tech video games or good old building blocks?  Well, according to two new studies, that depends on if you’re training their creativity or their spatial awareness.  Also, in our weekly round-up of brain science news, we find out about our brain’s “default-mode network” which manages our brain’s neurons when trying to focus on an object. For most sports, athletes require the ability to quickly make sense of their surroundings, then to be creative in their reaction to this ever changing environment.  Developing these dual skills often starts in the early years with non-sport activities. Nora Newcombe, …

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Neuroplasticity and how training changes the structure of the brain

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The more we practice something, the better we get at it; this much is uncontroversial.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth examining. The connection between practicing a skill and then improving because of that practice is a concept that is so natural and intuitive, so well accepted as common knowledge, that we often fail to appreciate the fascinating mechanics behind the process of skill acquisition. On the most basic level, learning a new skill or improving a skill involves changes in the brain.  There are a few different ways that our brains adapt to picking up new skills and changing environmental conditions.  The first involves a rewiring of the networks …

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The science behind choking

via Axon Sports

Free throw shooting in basketball offers one of the best opportunities to look at the effects of pressure on athletic performance.  Most NBA players can stand around in an empty gym and knock down free throw after free throw.  It’s one of those skills that has been so refined by deliberate practice that it’s basically performed on autopilot.  But it’s a different story to put that same player in a pressure-packed situation, in front of a crowd, with the game on the line.  In research conducted by Art Markman at the University of Texas, it appears that NBA players are more likely to choke in critical, late-game situations: The  highest pressure …

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Do athletes have superior decision-making abilities?

via Axon Sports

The idea that athletes might be better at making high-speed decisions that are specific to their sport is an intuitive one, based on what we know about the brain and how it changes with deliberate practice. The last few posts have focused on just how athletes’ brains may change as they acquire expertise, and how it is often difficult to truly measure these differences. A recent study published in The Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine points to some very interesting potential differences in the way that athletes and non-athletes make high-speed decisions. Groups of college students, half of them division I varsity athletes, half of them pulled from …

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Neuroscouting at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference

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One of the more intriguing talks given at the recent MIT Sports Analytics conference was by Wesley Clapp and Brian Miller, two neuroscience Ph.D.’s who have founded a new company called Neuroscouting. The company describes itself as “led by a team of neuroscientists committed to advancing our understanding of the neural basis of elite athletic ability. Through their research with professional athletes, the Neuroscouting team is paving new roads in diagnostics and training in the world of sports.” They do a great job of describing some of the big advances that have been made in neuroscience research around the perception-action cycle, learning and memory, brain plasticity, and information processing, all while …

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