Archives for category: Sport

Image courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk

Bad day at the office?

In the Olympics, if you choke, it’s 4 years ’til your next review.

Canadian swimming psychologist Hap Davis made his athletes watch video re-runs of their failures on repeat and scanned their brains to see what was going on under the lid.

Initially when watching the video, high level blood flow to their amydala (responsible for emotions) and low-level to their motor cortices (where movement is executed). This likely reflected their physical reaction at the time.

Once they talked it through and explained the feelings of the race, he asked them to re-watch the race.

This time, blood flow to the amydala and pre-frontal cortex (which controls planning) was less, and blood flow to the motor cortex more.

Effectively, talking it out took away the negative emotion.

Who knew?

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Tom Daley

Tom Daley missed a medal ranking today

This Olympic Games have shown some serious grit from British athletes.

In the wash of narrowly coming 4th, 5th and or even last, they bowl up to an expectant BBC camera, look down it, and vow solemnly one of these lines straight out of Sports Psychology 101:

‘It was the journey, not the destination’

‘This is just a bump in the road’

‘Obviously I’d have liked to have done better but I’m happy with that’

‘It’s just great to be here’

etc etc

All while beaming, shrugging their shoulders, and seeming generally 150% ok with that.

Really?? After HOURS and HOURS and HOURS of tedious, lonely, painful, stressful, sometimes boring, sober, early, late, long, hours of training… that’s your gut reaction?!

That’s medal-worthy if you ask me.

How about some Andy Murray tears?? We’d understand! Really, we would.

You’ve just not entered the history books in front of your home crowd. We’d understand a quivering lower lip.

There must be some gun sports psychologists led by Dr Mark Bawden, who is also the head sports psychologist at the EIS.

Oop, just seen on the Beebs – they fudged the starter gun in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke Final so the girls had to wait for techies to fix it.

Just another hurdle to jump!

Think Rugby is all braun, not-so-much brain? Think again.

The current clash of countries playing in the Rugby World Cup 2011 has caused much upset: the Aussies lost to the Irish, Wales gave South Africa a run for their money and Argentina put England on their guard.

The pressure on these young athletes is unimaginable for us, but it is imperative that these players understand stress management to become professionals in their sport.

If their brains don’t feel the healthy stress, then effectively their bodies aren’t clocking-in for work: on-field butterflies and adrenaline-fueled “dead legs” need to be channelled into a win. To regard them as positives separates them from an amateur player.

However, off-field, in the heat of the multi-million-dollar, multi-million-eyeball contests, it’s the chat over the water-coolers which can cause the biggest psych-outs.

National sports media can be known to go to town on visiting countries’ teams to create heat, tension and general collusion amongst the home team, with the ill-effects of that of course intending to lie somehere on the neigbouring team’s shoulders.

Criticism, nit-picking, and comparisons all create a heavy burden of expectation for players, raising the fair question: are the countries, and the fans in those countries, responsible for the players’ attitudes, or are the players themselves responsible only?

For football fans, the benefit of the game lies in the experience of watching your team, says Welsh commentator Derrick Brockway. For him and his national team it’s the values of rugby which are important for the brain – of comradery and shared emotions, and watching the game together with his friends that makes the game what it is.

Thanks to Chris Corcoran on BBC Wales4 for sparking these thoughts. Listen to his full podcast at  www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01425tv.


The first ever mind-controlled bike has arrived!  The ‘PXP’, from Toyota, Saatchi & Saatchi LADeeplocal, and Parlee Cycles reads your thoughts via a specially built helmet to change gears as you ride.

The bike helmet, designed by Deeplocal, incorporates a built-in EEG array that lets you shift gears just by thinking about it!

The helmet learns to read your thoughts after a ten-minute “training” session to distinguish your “shift up” thoughts from your “shift down” thoughts.

“When you see the bike shift for the first time, it’s kind of like magic,” Matthew Pegula, Deeplocal Lead Engineer, tells Co.Design.

“…we’re not too far off from this being commercially viable.”

Cadel Evans, you have to get this new toy.

COOOOL.

Read more at Fast Code Design and John Watson’s blog.

This is your brain on winning - Newsweek

Illustration by Bryan Christie for Newsweek

Newsweek published this awesome graphic last week’s looking at the neurological activities and sequences that happen in the brain when you play sport. Pretty cool huh? If you need a new reason to get off the couch – look at what a workout it gives your grey matter!

I’ve been meaning to explore brain activity during sport in this blog what with Wimbeldon, the cricket season kicking off at Lord’s today, and of course Olympics 2012. With all those competitors slogging it out, you wonder what makes them tick?

The Newsweek article ‘The New Science of Triumph’ by Nick Summers (featuring the above pic) looked at the burgeoning area of neuroeconomics – that is, the new links being forged between winning, brain chemistry, social theory and economics of winners.

It has been discovered recently that the traditional hormone of ‘dominance’ (or winning), testosterone, has a close relationship with cortisol, a stress hormone. When balanced in the right levels this directly can affect winning – good stress can motivate, and alert you. But too much cortisol/stress is not a winning combination.

“Testosterone is helpful only when regulated by small amounts of another hormone called cortisol. What’s more, for those with a lot of cortisol in their blood, high levels of testosterone may actually impede winning.”

Also the dopamine system of the brain, which is involved with rewards and anticipating rewards, also affects winning because it affects your expectations to win:

“People’s brains are constantly comparing what happened with what could have happened,” says Scott Huettel, the director of Duke University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies.

“A bronze medalist might say, ‘Wow, I almost didn’t get a medal. It’s great to be on the stand!’ And the silver medalist is just thinking about all the mistakes he made that prevented him from winning gold.”

Read the full article here – The New Science of Triumph – Newsweek.

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