How Neuroscience Affects Your Performance
The brain only weighs about three pounds, but it is the most complex part of us. This organ is where thinking takes place. All of our senses are tied into our brain and it helps us to process stimuli from the outside world. We remember facts and events, experience feelings, think and solve problems, dream and have memories, and control our bodies through our brain.
Despite being such an important organ, the brain looks pretty bland. It's a ball of gray-colored, wrinkly tissue about the size of two fists. The brain sits in our hard, thick skull with membranes and fluid around it to protect it. So then how does the brain communicate?
Some Key Parts of the Brain (that translate to sports)
Cerebrum - The cerebrum is the biggest part of the brain. It's the gray wrinkly upper part. The surface of the cerebrum is called the cerebral cortex. Different parts of the cerebrum deal with different parts of the body. The back part deals with vision while other parts deal with other functions like movement, hearing, and touch. That is why smart people are sometimes called cerebral.
Cerebellum - This part of the brain deals with motor movement. It processes all the incoming motor messages from the nerves and figures out what to do with them. The cerebellum can learn motor movements with practice allowing us to do stuff like riding a bike or typing without even thinking about it. Hey, I didn't think about typing this once!
Brain Stem - This is where the brain connects to the spinal cord. Also, many automatic functions are controlled here like keeping the heart beating, breathing, and digesting food.
Hippocampus - This is crucial for memory. A good way to memorize this is that if you saw a hippo on campus you’d remember it!. A similar function of the hippocampus is strategic navigation which means finding your way around an environment and remembering where things are. So when you step on the field and you know where the goal is, you can focus more on your movements which leads you to score more easily.
One area of research involved with the brain is sleep. Studies have shown that sleep improves motor learning. While we are sleeping, fast electrical signals improve the connections of newly learned motor sequences, like kicking a soccer ball. This helps us recall the motor sequences later when we need them and improve our muscle memory. So sleeping is not just for resting your body physically, but also for helping you mentally by helping your brain process what you learned. Extra note: the “pons” regulates our sleep which is another brain structure.
Remember to keep your mind in peak condition so these brain parts can function. Read our other blogs here for tips on sports psychology.
“Biology for Kids.” Ducksters Educational Site, www.ducksters.com/science/brain.php.
“Headstart: Why Neuroscience Promises to Be a Game-Changer for Elite Sport.” Leaders, 3 Mar. 2020, leadersinsport.com/performance/headstart-neuroscience-gamechanger-elite-sport/.
Rost, Nicolas. “The Athletic Brain – How Neuronal Signals Influence Sports Performance.” Brainy Sundays, 23 Apr. 2017, scanberlin.com/2016/10/27/the-athletic-brain-how-neuronal-signals-influence-sports-performance/.