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Action anticipation and motor resonance in elite basketball players

Abstract

We combined psychophysical and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies to investigate the dynamics of action anticipation and its underlying neural correlates in professional basketball players. Athletes predicted the success of free shots at a basket earlier and more accurately than did individuals with comparable visual experience (coaches or sports journalists) and novices. Moreover, performance between athletes and the other groups differed before the ball was seen to leave the model's hands, suggesting that athletes predicted the basket shot's fate by reading the body kinematics. Both visuo-motor and visual experts showed a selective increase of motor-evoked potentials during observation of basket shots. However, only athletes showed a time-specific motor activation during observation of erroneous basket throws. Results suggest that achieving excellence in sports may be related to the fine-tuning of specific anticipatory 'resonance' mechanisms that endow elite athletes' brains with the ability to predict others' actions ahead of their realization.

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Figure 1: Behavioral data from experiment 1.
Figure 2: Corticospinal activation during observation of basket and soccer actions.
Figure 3: Corticospinal activation during observation of IN and OUT basket shots.
Figure 4: Kinematic analysis of upper and lower limb angle joints.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Luca Orlandi and Marco Veronese for their technical help. This research was supported by grants from the Ministero Istruzione Università e Ricerca (PRIN) and Fondo Investimenti per la Ricerca di Base, Italy, both awarded to S.M.A.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

S.M.A. conceived the study, designed the experiment and wrote the paper. P.C. and C.U. designed the experiment, collected and analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. M.R. collected the data.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Salvatore M Aglioti.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary Tables 1–3 and Supplementary Note (PDF 746 kb)

Supplementary Video 1

Example of IN basket shot clips lasting 639, 781, 923 and 1,623 ms. (MOV 8300 kb)

Supplementary Video 2

Example of OUT basket shot clips lasting 639, 781, 923 and 1,623 ms. (MOV 6738 kb)

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Aglioti, S., Cesari, P., Romani, M. et al. Action anticipation and motor resonance in elite basketball players. Nat Neurosci 11, 1109–1116 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2182

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