Being an athlete or merely a fan improves language skills when it comes to discussing their sport because parts of the brain usually involved in playing sports are instead used to understand sport language, new research at the University of Chicago shows.
The research was conducted on hockey players, fans, and people who'd never seen or played the game. It shows, for the first time, that a region of the brain usually associated with planning and controlling actions is activated when players and fans listen to conversations about their sport. The brain boost helps athletes and fans understanding of information about their sport, even though at the time when people are listening to this sport language they have no intention to act.
The study shows that the brain may be more flexible in adulthood than previously thought. "We show that non-language related activities, such as playing or watching a sport, enhance one's ability to understand language about their sport precisely because brain areas normally used to act become highly involved in language understanding," said Sian Beilock, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago. She is lead author of the paper, "Sports Experience Enhances the Neural Processing of Action Language," to be published Tuesday, September 2 in the on-line issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Experience playing and watching sports has enduring effects on language understanding by changing the neural networks that support comprehension to incorporate areas active in performing sports skills," she said.
The research could have greater implications for learning. It shows that engaging in an activity taps into brain networks not normally associated with language, which improves the understanding of language related to that activity, Beilock added.
For the study, researchers asked 12 professional and intercollegiate hockey players, eight fans and nine individuals who had never watched a game to listen to sentences about hockey players, such as shooting, making saves and being engaged in the game. They also listened to sentences about everyday activities, such as ringing doorbells and pushing brooms across the floor. While the subjects listened to the sentences, their brains were scanned using functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which allows one to infer the areas of the brain most active during language listening.
After hearing the sentences in the fMRI scanner, subjects performed a battery of tests designed to gauge their comprehension of those sentences.
Although most subjects understood the language about everyday activities, hockey players and fans were substantially better than novices at understanding hockey-related language.
Brain imaging revealed that when hockey players and fans listen to language about hockey, they show activity in the brain regions usually used to plan and select well-learned physical actions. The increased activity in motor areas of the brain helps hockey players and fans to better understanding hockey language. The results show that playing sports, or even just watching, builds a stronger understanding of language, Beilock said.
Joining Beilock in this research were Howard Nusbaum, Professor of Psychology at the University; Steven Small, Professor of Neurology and Psychology at the University; and Beilock's Ph.D. students Ian Lyons and Andrew Mattarella-Micke.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- The Quote Of The Week - Shocked And Disappointed
- Researchers Created A Laser Bullet To See What It Would Look Like - And Here It Is
- Limiting Global Warming To 2°C: The Philosophy And The Science
- Will Holding Thermal Printer Paper Really Send Your BPA Levels Soaring?
- Humans Drained The Aral Sea Once Before – But There Are No Free Refills This Time Round
- How Lymph Nodes Expand During Disease
- The Comets Of Beta Pictoris
- "It would be very useful, if also deeply depressing, to collect all of the statements made by prominent..."
- "Trying to explain this to people can be infuriating. It really is a few of us arguing against..."
- "Hi Valerie, thanks for writing.If you look up papers on existential dread, you should find some..."
- "If journal articles like this one would reference the science and the data instead of the politics..."
- "people, the claim that: 1 you do not believe in god, 2 you exist QED atheists exist is fatuous..."
- National Wildlife Refuge System bans on GMOs and neonics lack transparency, scientific rationale
- Want better sperm? Eat more pesticides
- Beyond universal donors, some people are programed with no blood type at all
- Anti-conventional ag movement spurs Big Ag to look to organic pesticides
- Can people really inherit memories?
- An end to fat shaming? The 50 year DNA mystery of metabolic dysfunction may soon be solved
- Teens whose parents exert more psychological control have trouble with closeness, independence
- Two days later: Adolescents' conflicts with family spill over to school, vice versa
- Children in high-quality early childhood education are buffered from changes in family income
- 'Breath test' shows promise for diagnosing fungal pneumonia
- New test could identify infants with rare insulin disease