Montegraphia may not yet realize my secondary motive for buying him a subscription to Discover magazine for Christmas (i.e. double-dipping; i.e. I also wanted to read it), but he does know that I’m enamored by the latest issue; there’s a wonderfully written article by Carl Zimmer (per usual) dissecting the “athlete” brain. Jocks, myself included, have habituated to the nicknames “meathead,” “dumb jock,” and “muscle brains,” but recent progress in neuroscience has debunked such stereotyping by suggesting that athletes, to exhaust a coaches’ adage, are the masters of mind over matter. When completing a procedural task that necessitates fine-tune motor control and/or hand-eye coordination , athletes have greater focus and subsequently better performance all while expending less brain energy. These superior mental attributes of intense focus (and subsequent better performance) concomitant with reduced energy expenditure were determined through a greater presence of high-frequency alpha waves and reduced oxygen uptake, measured through electrophysiology and a functional magnetic resonance imaging device, respectively. Even more interesting, this level of high performance combined with energy conservation is positively associated with athletic expertise; professional athletes have the greatest “mind over matter.”
I would provide you with the article, per usual, but I was unable to locate it online. Therefore, you may have to “double-dip” from your friend or just buy it, sorry. To avoid hate mail, Carl chose a unanimous (excluding Red Sox fans) talented athlete, Derek Jeter, instead of an equally talented, but damned athlete who was voted most likely not to speak at upcoming graduation commencements.
Here is one of the papers highlighted in Carl Zimmer’s article, though; it describes a transcranial magnetic stimulation sensor placed over the motor cortex which assists in motor memory retention and recall. The designers of this device at Johns Hopkins and Zimmer (myself too) anticipate that this device will be soon be regulated in use by the USOC, IOC, and other governing sports institutions. My pole vaulters would certainly benefit from this technology, since success in the event is dependent upon muscle memory and body kinesthetics more than juice.
Galea, J., & Celnik, P. (2009). Brain Polarization Enhances the Formation and Retention of Motor Memories Journal of Neurophysiology, 102 (1), 294-301 DOI: 10.1152/jn.00184.2009