Neural Bases for Anticipation Skill in Soccer: An fMRI Study

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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Daniel T. BishopBrunel University

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Michael J. WrightBrunel University

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Robin C. JacksonBrunel University

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Bruce AbernethyUniversity of Queensland

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The aim of this study was to examine the neural bases for perceptual-cognitive superiority in a soccer anticipation task using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Thirty-nine participants lay in an MRI scanner while performing a video-based task in which they predicted an oncoming opponent’s movements. Video clips were occluded at four time points, and participants were grouped according to in-task performance. Early occlusion reduced prediction accuracy significantly for all participants, as did the opponent’s execution of a deceptive maneuver; however, high-skill participants were significantly more accurate than their low-skill counterparts under deceptive conditions. This perceptual-cognitive superiority was associated with greater activation of cortical and subcortical structures involved in executive function and oculomotor control. The contributions of the present findings to an existing neural model of anticipation in sport are highlighted.

Daniel T. Bishop is with the Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging and the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Brunel University, London, UK. Michael J. Wright is with the Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging, Brunel University, London, UK. Robin C. Jackson is with the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Brunel University, London, UK. Bruce Abernethy is with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.

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