Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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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