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Essay on Sports and Neuroscience

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Practicing sport or a simple physical activity, can change your brain. Regular physical activity leads to benefit in physical and mental health. In consequence, regular exercise has become an important part of a well-balanced lifestyle and is easily accomplished through sports. Study shows that playing practicing sports improves blood flow to our brain. This allows our body to build more connections between nerves within the brain which, improves memory, makes you feel more creative, helps your brain develop better problem-solving skills and is a form to relief the stress.

Our brains are still much quicker and more complex. “The human system is incredibly complicated”, says Culverhouse, from his office at Plymouth’s Centre for Robotics and Neural Science.

The human brain is truly amazing. It is almost twice the size of any other creature's brain in comparison to our size, and it has tremendous strength. According to one study, to perform the same number of calculations per second as a single human brain, you would need to use every computer in the world. Part of what makes the human brain unique is the extent of our ‘cerebral cortex’, the tightly folded layers of neural tissue that give us the skills most other animals lack - the ability to reason, plan and communicate. The cortex is divided into two hemispheres, and each of those into four lobes: the frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes.

The lobes are made up of neurons. In total, the brain contains up to 100 billion neurons, thin, branching, wire-like cells that carry the electrical and chemical impulses that make you who you are. They both transmit and store information and instructions – they’re the Internet connection and the hard drive all rolled together.

All a single neuron can do on its own is to fire an electrical impulse along its length, a tiny blip like a flicker of light. But it’s the connections that matter: neurons trigger other neurons, and it’s the overall pattern of billions of these tiny switches that creates thought and action in response to inputs from the rest of the body. For professional athletes, to reach the top and make them different from the non-athletes that do not do sports as a profession, it takes years and years of practice, focus and commitment. They have the ability to have impressive physiques, honed to perfection, the ability to jump higher, move faster and throw harder than many of us could ever dream of.

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A memory bank of comparable moves and experiences, as well as a pattern-based mode of memory retrieval, aid athletes in making fast decisions. For example, we've all seen how expert tennis players can move swiftly to meet an oncoming ball with their racquet. However, it is easy to forget what connects the eye and the hand (the brain) as we marvel at their lightning-fast bodies. Professional athletes have highly developed brain processes for quickly perceiving information specific to their sport, such as the movement of an opponent or the trajectory of a rapidly approaching ball and making the correct movement. The studies have shown that professional athletes at the top of their game are able to predict which way an object is likely to travel earlier than novice, and even intermediate, athletes, giving them more time to plan an appropriate action in response.

Professional athletes’ ability to make predictions may also be built on their capacity to remember the past, that is, their memories. Through practice and experience, professional athletes build up a huge store of what are called ‘procedural’ memories. This memory is not just about muscles or body movements - it also stores things like the way a ball moves or turns when approaching us, or the way an opponent’s racquet swings to send a ball left or right. The brain makes predictions based on these memories, and the more knowledge or practice they have, the more precise predictions become. Athletes' minds instinctively rely on these experiences to make extremely accurate decisions about an opponent's move or the trajectory of a ball in a fraction of a second, enabling them to react lightning rapidly and precisely. As another example, researchers looked at professional basketball players and non-experts to see what went on in their brains as they watched movies of basketball players taking free shots. As they watched the footage, the responses of these groups of muscles to electrical stimulation of the motor cortex were observed. The activity in the brains of expert players, especially when watching shots that would not make it into the basket, was specific to the hand muscles which determined the fate of the shot. This mirroring of another player's body movements in the brain can allow professional athletes to build forward models to predict the outcome of movements, enabling them to react in a split second and also can help them to learn how to do it better.

Although this research would not be possible with some advance technologies in cognitive neuroscience. The ability to show functional brain activity during athletic performance and while undergoing psychological interventions has been critical in supporting the disciplines effectiveness, though most of the research done through cross-sectional studies. Currently, the three most common neuroscience techniques related to sport and exercise are electroencephalography, transcranial magnetic stimulation and functional magnetic resource imaging, which they have been in development for over the past 30 years. However, it first has to be shown that transcranial direct current stimulation in athletes is at all capable of enhancing motor skill learning and/or motor performance, and if so, that this is performance-relevant and beneficial in specific sports disciplines.

Since effective motor function and efficiency are dependent on optimal brain activity, identifying adaptational brain alterations as a result of systematic training may lead to new ways to improve training progress in athletes. The goal of neurodiagnostics is to identify brain networks that contribute to performance improvement in general and, beyond that, brain networks that are particularly responsible for the execution of specific sports disciplines. This helps to identify youth athletes with the potential of becoming professional athletes. Neuromodulation, which involves the selective stimulation of performance-relevant brain regions, may also be a viable option for improving training outcomes. Finally, the development and application of neuromodulation in sports must be accompanied by a continuous discussion concerning framework conditions such as ethical aspects, risks, and implementation in the field.

It is important to understand that athletes are also often prone to injury, whether on a muscular, physical or traumatic level. Maximizing efficiency is often the primary aim, even though it comes at the risk of bodily harm. Recurrent traumatic brain injuries and even recurrent sub concussive impacts have been related to neurological impairments as well as long-term effects such as early dementia. The main aim of the medical professionals is to protect the athletes using existing knowledge of the brain injury. With that, medical professionals passed a law requiring that professional athletes accused of suffering brain injuries during a game or practice need to be ruled out from competition or sat out until they are apt to practice their sport. The evaluation of an athlete with a traumatic brain injury might take days, weeks, or months of recovery.

Sport is a deceptively difficult thing for the brain to do. The simplest of movements requires precise calculations of the speed and trajectory of objects, and of our own position in space. “There is more computational power in picking up a chess piece and moving it than there is in deciding the chess move”, says Dr. Vincent Walsh of University College London, one of the world’s leading cognitive neuroscientists. “I don’t think sport gets the respect it deserves in terms of brain processing power. It is a form of intelligence”.

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Essay on Sports and Neuroscience. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
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