The performance of athletes has evolved considerably over the last twenty years, and the extraordinary talent of certain super-trained, veritable winning-machines is intriguing neuroscientists. As a result of technological progress, scientists now have the tools to be able to understand exactly what lies behind the talent of these unstoppable champions.
Through careful observation of outstanding athletes’ brains, scientists have identified mechanisms of learning and gesture memorisation, in the core of these athletes’ neurons. They have been able to observe to what extent intensive physical training modifies the cerebral cortex, which gives high-performance sportspeople greater rapidity and more precision than anyone else in their particular sport. But the beneficial effects of their daily sports practice do not stop there; it also increases their cognitive capacities. More attentive and able to control their concentration effectively, these athletes use superior intelligence to read and anticipate their opponents’ moves.
On sports fields today, high-performance athletes are close to reaching the physical limits of the human body. Their only real margin for improvement is now mental. A growing number of European and North American scientists are offering solutions to top sports clubs and Olympic teams, to train these athletes’ mental capacities that have been neglected for so long. They are offering coaches a new perspective on performance, setting up customised training with them, in which great importance is placed on observation, concentration and controlling stress and the emotions.