From Dr. Jay Kumar - Neuroscience & Sports: How Michael Phelps Uses Brain and Brawn to Win GoldAugust 2, 2012
Michael Phelps just broke the record for most decorated Olympic athlete in sport's history! You might be surprised to learn that it's not just his physical strength, but his brain that actually might be the most important tool that helped him in his world record performances at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Every four years the world's best athletes from every corner of the globe come together to the Summer Olympics for the love of sport and to GO FOR THE GOLD! In 1896, the first Modern Olympic Games were founded by Pierre de Coubertin on the ideals that "respect, fair balance, pursuit of excellence, joy in effort, and balance between mind, body and will as the most essential Olympic values!"Coubertin's intention was to take an entirely holistic approach to sports for all athletes to cultivate the body, mind, and soul. I wonder how pleasantly surprised he'd be knowing just how true his vision exists in sports today, as more athletes actively train their mind and brain equally as their body. As a big fan of the Olympic games and as someone who studies the brain and human cognition, what equally fascinates me is understanding what happens between the ears of an Olympic athlete, like Phelps, that makes him an Olympic legend! It's the reason why Dr. John Milton, a neuroscientist at Claremont Colleges in California says, "Brawn plays a part, but there's a whole lot more to it than that." Let's explore exactly why that is by looking at what's happening inside Michael Phelps' brain just before he dives off the block and wins gold.
"If You Can Envision It, You Can Achieve It!"
Seconds before the starting buzzer and Phelps' body hits the surface of the water, an area in his brain known as the pre-motor cortex actually begins to fire before the muscles in his body begin to engage for the race. Neuroscientists have only very recently learned that the premotor cortex actually has nothing to do with any actual motor coordination or physical signal for your body. It turns out, this fascinating area of your brain merely helps your body envision and prepare for something it is about to accomplish, like swimming, preparing to give a big speech, tackling an important issue in life, taking an exam, or perhaps merely sticking to your exercise and diet goals.
In a recent article published in the journal Science, research into the premotor cortex reveals that this area of the brain is what accounts for us planning and strategizing in order to accomplish a goal. The reason why Olympic athletes and other highly motivated people appear to be more capable of winning a race or accomplishing a long-sought after goal is that they've trained their premotor cortex to visualize themselves performing the task in their brain well before any actual physical action occurs. It is as if their brain is already doing the action well before the body even moves a muscle! It is perhaps this cognitive visualization that gives athletes, CEOs, presidents, and other highly motivated people a considerable advantage when it comes to facing a challenge.
So even if you're not planning to be the next Michael Phelps, there is one thing that you share with him and everyone else in your ability to achieve your personal best in life-BRANPOWER! All the studies in neuroscience now indicate that the brain, like the body, is a muscle that you can strengthen and harness to your advantage in order to accomplish your goals in life. So how exactly can you use the premotor cortex to work for you? The answer is in a phrase that I often say to clients and to my students: "If you can envision it, you can achieve it!" Whether you want to call it "creative imagery," "cognitive visualization, " or "muscle memory," neuroscience now validates the long-held believe that in order to accomplish a task, your chances of success are much greater if you can visualize it first in your mind!
Click the link below for the rest of the article!
Posted by Ken at 6:49 PM