Following on from English Noister Tim Beames’s post about the Aussie Ashes team needing a break we fast forward to those in the baggy green celebrating a day early having skittled the English.
The inevitable post-loss analysis will now take place with the English eleven and their support staff dissecting the game and trying to work out where it all went so wrong. Part of this dissection will surely involve watching the worst bits (for the English!) over and over again. Video analysis of each dismissal trying to spot problems with technique and style will likely take place, probably in excruciatingly slow motion, with the batsmen reliving the dismay of those moments. But, given what we now know about mirror neurons, could this approach to performance improvement be more hindrance than help?
Using fMRI, Calvo-Merino et al (2005) found that when expert dancers watched the style of dancing that they were familiar with there was greater activation in premotor cortex and other brain areas compared with watching a different style of dance and compared with inexpert controls.
Consider this from their discussion:
“Our results show that the brain’s response to seeing an action is influenced by the acquired motor skills of the observer. Subjects showed stronger BOLD [fMRI response] responses in classical mirror areas (Grèzes and Decety, 2001; Rizzolatti et al., 2001), including the premotor, parietal cortices and STS, when they observed dance actions that were in their personal motor repertoire than when they observed kinematically comparable dance actions that were not in their repertoire…. Thus, while all groups saw the same stimuli, the mirror areas of their brains responded to the stimuli in a way that depended on the observer’s specific motor expertise.”
This suggests that for the expert English batsmen, watching their own mistakes (or watching the ball scream past their nose or thud into their body) will effectively recruit numerous mirror neroune groups and quite likely run some rich, contextual and highly emotive neurotags (“getting out” neurotags?) over and over again.
Imagine what might happen if the whole team sat down to watch as their fellow batsmen “get out” over and over – even those batsmen who performed well will be getting a good synaptic workout as mirror regions are recruited to run the “getting caught behind off an outside edge from a Mitchell Johnson screamer” neurotag. Perhaps the English cricketers would be better served instead by watching themselves smash the Aussie bowlers all over the park back in July – might this be putting their mirror neurones to better use?
PS: Please don’t pass this on to the English cricket team.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below