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Trends in sports neuroscience: Rising demand for tools to study brain activity while being physically active

Trends in sports neuroscience: Rising demand for tools to study brain activity while being physically active

Former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlon runner Bruce Jenner once said: "You have to train your mind like you train your body." Stressing the ability of concentration and body control are essential ingredients to performance. Trends in sport science have unveiled the difference between a gold medalist and the runners-up may be found in the brain rather than in the body. But the big questions remain: how can an athlete develop a winning brain? How can he or she monitor the effect of physical training on the brain?  And, is it possible to learn how to achieve a mindset for better performance?

Neuroscience research is unveiling the differences between brain activity of top performance athletes compared to novices, also suggesting data collection during the sport performance could be the source of further insight. In a recent paper by Naito et al., the brain of Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (Brasilian national team football player) and other participants were analyzed while performing right ankle rotation. The authors found a reduced load on the motor regions in the brain of Neymar when compared to other professional and amateur football players. Presumably, that could allow him to spend neural resources to focus more on cognitive aspects during the sport performance, like predicting and detecting the actions of other players. The experimental study was carried out using fMRI in a controlled environment, where the athletes were in supine position and mechanically constrained.

Some other studies in sports neuroscience have addressed the way humans encode spatial information. In a work by Gramann et al., a difference was found in the way a target position is stored in the human brain with respect to the athlete’s reference system, being either egocentric (specify location and orientation of the target with respect to the human itself) or allocentric (specify location and orientation with respect to elements and features of the environment). Particularly, they discovered areas in the occipital cortex that are selectively active only for one specific type of information retrieval, supporting the idea that this part of the brain plays an important role in the guidance of actions. Again subjects in this study were analyzed in a constrained laboratory setup due to the limitations posed by fMRI imaging technique. 

Understanding how the human brain generates, encodes and memorizes the surrounding space with respect to its own location, could be the starting point for enhancement of this natural skill. Particularly, this can be of interest for athletes that need accurate spatial information (e.g. localization of a reaching target, position of opponents and team mates on the playing field) in order to perform at best. Moreover, as pointed out by Chen et al., studies on the functioning of the brain should better be done in a natural environment, where human cognition is not taken out of the fundamental experience of the world. In fact, the human brain evolved to organize and control motor behavior in a three-dimensional and ever changing environment while moving, walking and orienting. Thus, in order to enhance our understanding of the brain’s dynamics, new tools are necessary to overcome the restrictions of traditional brain imaging technologies.

In line with the recent trends in scientific research, ANT Neuro has developed a complete solution for mobile EEG/EMG recordings in real-life settings. The small and lightweight eego sports offers complete freedom to collect high-density EEG data while being physically active, with very low noise due to the movement artifact minimization technology.

With its reliability, accuracy and significantly lower cost when compared to fMRI, eegosport is enabling researchers to study human brain activity in a natural environment without mechanical restrictions, and is paving the way for a new wave of discoveries in brain research.

To learn more about eego sports, click here>> 


Naito, E., & Hirose, S. (2014). Efficient foot motor control by Neymars brain. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8(August), 1–7. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00594

Klaus Gramann, Tzyy-Ping Jung, Daniel P. Ferris, Chin-Teng Lin,Scott Makeig(2014). Toward a new cognitive neuroscience: modeling natural brain dynamics. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014; 8: 444.

Ying Chen, Simona Monaco, Patrick Byrne,Xiaogang Yan, Denise Y.P. Henriques, J.    Douglas Crawford (2014). Allocentric versus Egocentric Representation of Remembered Reach Targets in Human Cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(37): 12515
12526; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1445-14.2014

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