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The new Mental Game: sport psychology, coaches, get ready!

One of the many Sharp Brains around, who is up to date of every­thing relat­ed to brain health and fit­ness (yes, Jeanne, that’s you! thanks for being such a great bureau chief!) has sent us a very inter­est­ing press note on how brain fit­ness and train­ing can be applied in the sports per­for­mance world. I haven’t been able to track down the research behind the spe­cif­ic pro­grams men­tioned in the arti­cle, but the the­o­ret­i­cal ratio­nale makes sense based on sim­i­lar pro­grams we are famil­iar with: you can see below a sum­ma­ry of our inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher, sci­en­tif­ic mind behind com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions for mil­i­tary pilots and for bas­ket­ball play­ers.

The note Sports Vision Train­ing Takes Ath­letes to New Fron­tiers explains how

  • Spe­cial­ty sports vision facil­i­ties are help­ing ath­letes train skills that many believed were “untrain­able”; skills like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tem­po, reac­tion speed, focus and con­cen­tra­tion.”
  • What has every­one all worked up is the knowl­edge that they can actu­al­ly train ath­let­ic skills that many believed were “untrain­able.” We’re talk­ing about intan­gi­bles like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tem­po, reac­tion speed, focus and con­cen­tra­tion. “One of the worst mis­takes an ath­lete can make is to believe that you’re either born with or with­out these kinds of skills, and that they’re con­se­quent­ly not train­able, says Bri­an Stam­mer, edi­tor of SportsVi­sion Mag­a­zine. “If you want to be the best ath­lete you can be, you must do exer­cis­es to con­di­tion and sharp­en your sen­so­ry sys­tem, includ­ing visu­al, audi­to­ry and brain-pro­cess­ing speed.
  • This is the link to the mag­a­zine they men­tion: SportsVi­sion Mag­a­zine

And here is the sum­ma­ry of my (AF) inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher (DG) on Cog­ni­tive Sim­u­la­tions and cog­ni­tive train­ing:

  • AF: …Can you sum­ma­rize your research find­ings across all these exam­ples and fields, and how you see the field evolv­ing?
  • DG: In short, I’d sum­ma­rize by say­ing that
  • - Cog­ni­tive per­for­mance can be sub­stan­tial­ly improved with prop­er train­ing.
  • - It is not rigid­ly con­strained by innate, fixed abil­i­ties.
  • - Cog­ni­tive task analy­sis enables us to extract major cog­ni­tive skills involved in any task.
  • - Atten­tion con­trol and atten­tion allo­ca­tion strate­gies are a crit­i­cal deter­mi­nants in per­form­ing at top lev­el in com­plex, real-time deci­sion-mak­ing envi­ron­ments
  • - Those skills, and oth­er asso­ci­at­ed, can be improved through train­ing
  • - Research shows that stand-alone, inex­pen­sive, PC-based train­ing is effec­tive to trans­fer and gen­er­al­ize per­for­mance.
  • - The key for suc­cess is to ensure Cog­ni­tive fideli­ty, this is, that the cog­ni­tive demands in train­ing resem­ble those of the real life task.”

I encour­age you to read the whole inter­view: one of the most thought-pro­vok­ing we have done.

Here is the Bas­ket­ball Intel­li­Gym pro­gram men­tioned in the inter­view, and a very cool 4‑minutes video on how the Mem­phis Tigers used the pro­gram.

OK, enough about bas­ket­ball. What about golf? well, it turns out Golf Digest pub­lished recent­ly a piece on how we can reg­u­late our emo­tions and improve our game!.

Is it too much to imag­ine that in not too many years we will have brain fit­ness programs/ “brain gyms” tai­lored for a good num­ber of pro­fes­sions and activ­i­ties? would you use one?

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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