Sunday, July 29, 2012

does the insula help elite athletes better anticipate their body's upcoming feelings, improving their physical reactions?



scientificamerican | All elite athletes train hard, possess great skills and stay mentally sharp during competition. But what separates a gold medalist from an equally dedicated athlete who comes in 10th place? A small structure deep in the brain may give winners an extra edge.

Recent studies indicate that the brain's insular cortex may help a sprinter drive his body forward just a little more efficiently than his competitors. This region may prepare a boxer to better fend off a punch his opponent is beginning to throw as well as assist a diver as she calculates her spinning body's position so she hits the water with barely a splash. The insula, as it is commonly called, may help a marksman retain a sharp focus on the bull's-eye as his finger pulls back on the trigger and help a basketball player at the free-throw line block out the distracting screams and arm-waving of fans seated behind the backboard.

The insula does all this by anticipating an athlete's future feelings, according to a new theory. Researchers at the OptiBrain Center, a consortium based at the University of California, San Diego, and the Naval Health Research Center, suggest that an athlete possesses a hyper-attuned insula that can generate strikingly accurate predictions of how the body will feel in the next moment. That model of the body's future condition instructs other brain areas to initiate actions that are more tailored to coming demands than those of also-rans and couch potatoes.

This heightened awareness could allow Olympians to activate their muscles more resourcefully to swim faster, run farther and leap higher than mere mortals. In experiments published in 2012, brain scans of elite athletes appeared to differ most dramatically from ordinary subjects in the functioning of their insulas. Emerging evidence now also suggests that this brain area can be trained using a meditation technique called mindfulness—good news for Olympians and weekend warriors alike.

11 comments:

Big Don said...

Insular cortices are not all created equal. The capacity and potential of one's insula, to do all the neat stuff cited in the article, is undoubtedly driven by genetics. Whether it be "calculating a spinning body's position" or deciding which box to fill in
with a Number 2 pencil on an SAT or IQ test.


BD particularly noted the phrase about "anticipating future feelings." Who knows? One's genetically-driven insular cortex potential may be instrumental in Future Time Orientation performance....


Happy Monday to y'all whose FTO hasn't yet gotten them out of the salt mines....


And while we're on the subject of athletic performance, it should be noted that all the focus on drug testing to prevent "cheating" is totally ridiculous. Olympics and other world class competitions have always been about determining the limits of human performance. Why should the benefit of any ingested substance be excluded? AT BD's Olympics and e.g.Tour de France the standard would be if you are not in jail, you are good to compete. That would be a truly level playing field. If certain amounts of certain substances actually improve physical performance this information should be found out.

Dale Asberry said...

You must not have paid attention to the article. The insular cortices can be improved significantly through mindfulness meditation. What if those Olympic athletes figured that out on their own and used it as an advantage?


Anywho, it means your insular cortices must be all shriveled up like a raisin -- both genetics and mindfulness failing you.

CNu said...

rotflmbao...., I cracked up laughing even before I read your response. Saw DA on the email notification for this topic and got tickled knowing that a rhetorical ass-whooping had already been administered.

Big Don said...

Sure anyone can improve. The issue is what is the Max Potential after complete development/improvement. *That* is what is genetic.

CNu said...

lol, BD, do you realize all your "arguments" are tautological? It's one thing to not know, something altogether different to be unteachable http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2012/07/supernatural-meetings-with-ancient.html

Big Don said...

ROTFLMAO. CNu, take note. Appears that all that pot smoking negatively affected Michael Phelps. Stoned cortices don't work so well, apparently......

Big Don said...

It might possibly be viewed from this perspective...
http://the-scientist.com/2012/07/26/termite-kamikazes/

Dale Asberry said...

I'm failing to see the connection there.

CNu said...

uh huh, http://msn.foxsports.com/olympics/swimming/story/ryan-lochte-michael-phelps-missy-franklin-rebecca-soni-big-night-us-swimmers-080212 if you say so chilito....,

Big Don said...

...He had to go Cold Turkey with Olympic Village closed up tight...

Dale Asberry said...

...with all evidence to the contrary! He's our anosognosiac poster child!

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