- Show more
The study of an athlete’s brain
Most of us admire more than one athlete. We are fascinated by his strength, his ability to react, his vision to see the best opportunity. We admire its strategy, poise and those almost perfect movements that have led him to be part of the elite. However, beyond physical abilities, how is an athlete’s brain? Is perhaps different from any of us?
This same question was raised by neuroscientists on more than one occasion. This interest is due to an undeniable fact, those tennis professionals, athletics, gymnastics, motorcycling, swimming, football or basketball, display a series of incredible psychological competencies. It highlights for example, its fascinating ability to make decisions under pressure. Mind and body work not only in perfect harmony. In addition, they execute a series of cognitive processes so sophisticated that it is undeniable to ask what will happen there, in the depths of its neuronal universe. Perhaps they are geniuses, outstanding gifted in the physical-sports area, men and women who almost without knowing it, have exercised the brain as if they were more muscle.
How is an athlete’s brain?
A way to understand how an athlete’s brain is comparing it to someone who is not. Moreover, scientists also usually make observations between elite athletes and those who do not compete on a professional level. An example of this is in the research that was carried out at the Anglia Ruskin University, in Cambridge, the United Kingdom. Dr. Camilo Monteloano, analyzed the behavior between elite tennis players and those who were still fans. Something that could be discovered through magnetic resonances, is that the areas related to visual ability had greater activity. The vision and ability to process information seems to be a more developed competition in professional tennis players. It is a fact without a doubt interesting. In this way, something that we also deduce from this work and how is the brain of an athlete, is that everything depends on the sports area to which the person is dedicated. Thus, the brain of a gymnast will not present the same competitions as those of a rugby player. However, sports and neuroscientific psychologists agree that there are common elements. They are the following.
A brain ready to take action
Something that catches the attention of great athletes is their reaction capacity. We pointed it to the beginning. Claudio del Perceio, professor at the Sapienza University in Rome, conducted a study where he could explain this striking skill. Something that could verify is that athletes emit stronger alpha waves. What does this mean? Implies that even being at rest they are alert. It also means that they can go into action in a few seconds because their brain is trained and accustomed to respond quickly in any circumstance.
Greater connectivity between neurons
To understand how an athlete’s brain is, remember what happens to this fascinating organ when we start practicing any activity. Tasks such as learning a language or touching an instrument generates new connections. New neuronal links are created and certain areas are strengthened, those related to the activity we are learning or developing.
The brain of an athlete also creates new connections depending on the activity it performs. Thus, by dedicating to that sports area many hours of training for several years, not only do they improve their physical resistance or develop certain muscles. It is common in turn that thanks to that greater neuronal connectivity, they are skilled in the following skills:
- Planning and prediction (a tennis player, for example, already knows how the ball will fall based on certain serves and movements).
- Patterns detection.
- Greater capacity for analysis and reflection.
- Ability to address several stimuli at the same time.
- A brain that is treated as a muscle
Athletes are great mental architects. Over time they have learned to better understand how it works;So much so, that they know very well how to take advantage to improve performance, to enhance self-confidence, security, achievement capacity and of course, overcoming.
To understand what an athlete’s brain is like we must see it as the athlete itself sees: as a muscle that training to the maximum every day. As such, they also understand that to perform to the maximum, this organ also needs rest times, stimulation, challenges and moments of silence where to favor internal dialogue to turn off fears, doubts and insecurities. Thus, something that any athlete knows well is that the body does have a limit. Sometimes it is not possible to go further because our constitution, injuries or other physical factors do not allow it. Now, the mind instead is infinitely malleable, it has no limit or horizon, our brain presents a great malleability and plasticity and that is a great advantage for the athlete.
To conclude, that neuronal universe in the athlete and its characteristics will always vary depending on the activity that practices. However, it stands out above all its great reaction capacity and that ability of those who are accustomed to putting challenges and overcoming each day. Something undoubtedly enviable.