Archivo de December 2010

The mirror neuron system and sport

By Iñigo Mujika , el 29 de December de 2010

Photo: Ralph-Axel Müller, via Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1996, a group of Italian researchers discovered mirror neurons in the premotor area of the brain of macaque monkeys. These neurons fire when a monkey performs an action, but also when a monkey sees another monkey or a human carrying out the same type of action. In other words, these neurons function as a mirror, by activating the same brain areas of the individual actually performing the action. A mirror neuron system has also been found in the human brain, and it is considered that this system was fundamental for the development of intentional communication (e.g. facial expressions, hand gestures) and oral language in humans.

Neuroscientists also speculate that the mirror neuron system is important for learning new skills by imitation, and to understand other people’s actions, emotions and intentions, by activating the same areas in our brains and creating some kind of empathy or emotional link between them and us.

The same cortical network in the premotor cortex is activated when humans watch a finger being lifted and when they lift a finger themeselves, but the mirror neuron system far from being restricted to hand movements has areas corresponding to movements of all body parts. Does this execution-observation matching system involved in action recognition have an impact on skill acquisition and performance in sport?

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Keys to building a performance plan for young football players

By Iñigo Mujika , el 11 de December de 2010

The captains carrying the Basque flag before the game Real Sociedad-Athletic Club.

Back in November 2007, Liverpool FC player and captain Steven Gerrard pronounced the following words: “I think there’s a risk that there are too many foreign players coming over, and that will affect our national team –if it isn’t already–. I’m all for getting good young English players through –it happened to myself– and it’s important we keep producing. It’s pointless having the best league if our national team’s gonna suffer in the long run. We want as many home-grown players playing in The Premier League as possible; as an England player we want top players in the squad and I’m sure that would help.”

Fortunately, two Basque teams like Real Sociedad and Athletic Club Bilbao have historically made good use of their own academies, either because of financial needs or due to a club philosophy, and this strategy has always helped them to achieve their best results.

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