Sunday, June 26, 2011

Playing video games can make you a better athlete.

This won't cause riots in the streets but I'm sure it will make a few people screw their face in skepticism. It is common knowledge these days that video games improve hand eye coordination and  can stimulates new neuron connections but this is not what this post is about. New and exciting research has discovered an amazing phenomena of the human brain. Mirror Neurons.
What are Mirror Neurons? 

Mirror Neurons are located in the frontal lobe. These neurons fire when we perform a certain action, like pick up a book, kick a soccer ball, swing a bat, and so on. These were also known as motor command neurons. Recent studies have found that about 20% of these special neurons fire when we observer others perform a task. So when I see Carl shoot a basketball with correct form, a group of my own motor command neurons fire as if I had shot the ball. This has major implications, most of which I will not dive into for fear of upsetting my dear southern baptist schoolmates ;). 

These mirror neurons are essentially adopting actions from a virtual simulation. Now this would not have been a big deal to athletes who played video games a few years back. However, with the rise of graphics and reality of video games, this will become exponentially more relevant. Just look at the latest baseball game or soccer game, its more colorful and more clear then actual life. It is hard for one to fathom where video games will be in 10 years, giving that the world economy doesn't collapse. 

So if you have a current generation video console and a recent sports game of your choosing, rest assured. Look at their form, their foot work, their position, because your brain is practicing. As the great Psychologist Malcolm Gladwell has discovered, to become an expert at any task requites 10,000 hours of practice. Go game, you have a few hours to go. 

Check out the TED video on Mirror Nuerons here, Mirror Neurons by Ramachandran TED

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