Finally the truth comes out!

“Neuroscientists have found several ways in which the brains of top-notch athletes seem to function better than those of regular folks.”

Thank you article entitled “The Brain: Why Athletes are Geniuses”, what a great line. <http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/16-the-brain-athletes-are-geniuses/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=&gt;

I may be a bit biased here, having been a 3-season varsity athlete in all of my years here at Colby (and way back when I was just a wee high schooler too), but I don’t think this is a surprising finding. (Now I’m feeling some pressure to right a really interesting/intellectual post.) So, obviously, athletes must have better functioning in some areas of the brain in order to be better than the average Joe at their sport. Not surprisingly, athletes devote less brain power to doing motor tasks, such as standing on one foot, than normal people. What I think is more important is how the superior functioning for those activities could affect the functioning for some other aspects of intelligence. One study compared the brains of athletes to those of normal people while they were simply sitting and resting. The athletes emitted stronger alpha waves, which indicated that there brains were basically more ready to spring into action. Athletes are also better at predicting the outcome of a task. For example, elite cricket players were better than amateur cricket players at judging how well a bowler’s throw would land, a task they have clearly never had to do before.

Some great discussion stemming from this research could be a chicken and the egg type of debate. Which came first, the great athlete or the great mind? Are great athletes somehow mentally superior, allowing them to develop their bodies into efficient athletic machines? Or, does becoming a great athlete develop the brain into a superior structure? I think that this debate could also be labeled as a nature versus nature question as well. It is possible that some people are born with the ability to become a great athlete, and part of this ability is superior mental strength. On the other hand, there is so much research suggesting that exercise has such positive benefits throughout the brain, and those benefits could be the cause of the superior mental strength of athletes since pro athletes undoubtedly exercise much, much more than the average person.

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2 thoughts on “Finally the truth comes out!

  1. Robyn, you bring up the question of whether superior ability in athletes is learned or innate. Here, I don’t see any evidence for innate skill at all – the article seems to argue purely for this being a learned ability that has a neural substrate (in this case, they seem to be focusing on growth of, or advanced function in, specific brain regions). I think I’m missing a link here – we know about the “chicken” (athletes have quiet cortices) but what about the egg (people with bigger cortices tend to be athletes?).

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  2. Derek, I’d have respectfully disagree with you. I don’t think that the example of the enhanced ability to predict bowling ball trajectory really argue either way (innate vs. learned). It was merely a correlation between current athletic ability (pro vs. amateur) and performance on a task (guessing trajectory paths). A study in which they took ordinary people and trained them to become superior athletes and compared their performance before and after would suggest that it was purely learned.

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