(PRWEB) January 31, 2013
It is known that athletes succeed because they can attain peak physical condition, but could the ability to build up mental skills be even more important in team-sports? A pioneering study tested the visual learning capacities of 275 athletes in top tier teams in the NHL, EPL, and French Rugby League, as well a range of elite amateurs using an established technique known as ‘NeuroTracker’, a perceptual–cognitive training system developed by CogniSens Athletics Inc. These tests were compared with non-athlete college students of similar age. The results showed amateur athletes improved their visual skills at accelerated rates compared to the students, while the pro-athletes improved dramatically faster than the amateurs.
The findings reveal that sports stars don’t just have better cognitive abilities for the demands of their sport, but that their brains are better at adapting at a fundamental level. Nature has published the study paper in Scientific Reports.
“What we do is isolate, test and train high-level cognitive abilities that we know are essential for reading the game on the field.” says Dr. Faubert, author and supervisor of the research, “The cognitive demands in competition are extreme, so we were not surprised to see the initial results correlate with levels of sporting ability, but we were amazed to discover actual learning capacity to be such a pivotal marker. It’s fascinating data.”
“Dr.Faubert is in a great position to have a pure science-based assessment that also trains sports performance,” commented Dr. Zaichkowsky, former Director of Sports Science for the NHL team the Vancouver Canucks, “…it’s really the only way to obtain such significant data with world-class athletes across these major team-sports. This study takes us a key step closer towards understanding what makes a truly great player.”
The findings raise big neuroscience questions as the observed differences may not simply derive from genetics. The paper cites studies which have found structural changes in athletes’ brains that increase neural efficiency for sports-related tasks, with more sports experience affecting greater changes. Dr.Faubert explained, “There are many factors at play here, but what we might be investigating with NeuroTracker’s refined cognitive measures is how intensive conditioning of the brain increases long-term responsiveness to the conditioning process itself - something that would be of enormous relevance for all fields of human performance.”
NeuroTracker (3D-MOT) is a scientific technique for measuring and training perceptual-cognitive abilities, it isolates the skills required to process complex dynamic visual scenes without contextual biases. It was developed at the Visual Psychophysics and Perception Laboratory, University of Montreal. It is licensed and commercialized by CogniSens Athletics Inc. For more information please visit:
The study paper is available at Nature Scientific Reports (link) under Creative Commons licence.
Faubert, J. Professional athletes have extraordinary skills for rapidly learning complex and neutral dynamic visual scenes. Sci. Rep. 3, 1154; DOI:10.1038/srep01154 (2013).
CogniSens Inc. is a science-based company that measures, manages and improves neurological activity. In collaboration with the world-leading visual psychophysics and perception laboratory at the University of Montreal, CogniSens has developed patented technologies that enhance the mental performance of athletes and servicemen.