there are some really interesting results from neuroscience investigations into sports. as with videogaming, it looks like the brain changes with practice in sports, and athletes’ brains are more efficient than non-athletes’ brains.
The brain begins by setting a goal—pick up the fork, say, or deliver the tennis serve—and calculates the best course of action to reach it. As the brain starts issuing commands, it also begins to make predictions about what sort of sensations should come back from the body if it achieves the goal. If those predictions don’t match the actual sensations, the brain then revises its plan to reduce error. Shadmehr and Krakauer’s work demonstrates that the brain does not merely issue rigid commands; it also continually updates its solution to the problem of how to move the body. Athletes may perform better than the rest of us because their brains can find better solutions than ours do.
sports geniuses may be born, but they are also made. practice is required to optimize neural pathways for efficient calculation.
Even as practice changes the brain’s anatomy, it also helps different regions of the brain talk to one another. Some neurons strengthen their connections to other neurons and weaken their connections to still others. Early on, neurons in the front of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) are active. That region is vital for top-down control, which enables us to focus on a task and consider a range of responses. With practice, the prefrontal cortex grows quiet. Our predictions get faster and more accurate, so we don’t need so much careful oversight about how to respond.
the cool thing is that a group of researchers found a way to overclock practice sessions. they attached electrodes across relevant neural regions and had ppl practice a certain physical operation. the group w/ electrodes showed greater performance and longer lasting results after a period with no practice. this is potentially a huge deal. it’s somewhat akin to using performance enhancing drugs b/c an athlete can achieve greater results with the same amount of practice.
i’d imagine that this would most affect very technical sports and sports requiring reaction time, but less so pure performance sports. diving and ping-pong might get a boost from this research, but the 100m dash and weight lifting might not. this would have to affect videogaming as well.
pro-players of the future might have to jack-up when practicing to stay competitive b/c of the difficulty in banning such a practice. i mean how could u tell if someone has jacked if there aren’t chemical residues?