To all the sports fans out there, there’s reason to rejoice! It turns out that watching sports is actually good for your brain. Now you have scientific proof to show your friends that spending hours in front of the television watching Sportscenter or the big game is making you smarter. That may be tongue in cheek, but there is mounting evidence that watching sports improves what scientists call “embodied cognition.”
It turns out that there is a link between learned motor skills and language comprehension. In other words, there is a connection between our bodies and our level of cognition.
A group of researchers took two groups of people; group one was made up of non-hockey players and group two consisted of hockey players. Each group was read sentences about everyday activities and hockey-related activities. In terms of the everyday activities, both groups scored the same in terms of accuracy and speed when asked if the sentence matched the picture.
When read the hockey related sentences, the athletes scored higher in both accuracy and speed. The researchers concluded that individuals with sensorimotor experience playing the sport had an advantage of a faster mental processing time than those who did not play the sport.
Another group of researchers took the experiment even further. They ran the same basic study, but also included a third group – hockey fans. The researchers wanted to know if athletes and hockey fans used different parts of their brain to process information compared to non-hockey fans.
It turns out that the hockey fans and players had increased activity in their left dorsal premotor cortex when read sentences and shown hockey related pictures compared to the non-hockey fan group. This study confirmed the results of the first study, but also showed that hockey fans were able to process information faster with increased activity in the brain in the same area as the hockey players.
So what about the non-hockey players? It turns out that the majority of activity these individuals had going on in their brains emanated from the bilateral primary sensory motor cortex, which is an area of the brain that helps complete new tasks. This shows that either playing or watching sports or activities can summon us to use different parts of our brains.
So next time you hear the words, “Kobe with the dribble drive to the top of the key, passes over to Pau Gasol on the baseline, back to Kobe for 3…swish”, know that you may be improving your language comprehension and processing skills.
As far as learning more effectively about non-sporting subjects, you may want to incorporate activity based study techniques that incorporate physical motion and learning together. Doing such may help you recall information better and help your mind respond quicker.
The research is still in its nascent form, and there is much to learn. Researchers plan on continuing scientific studies to create further data linking sensorimotor skills and cognitive language processing.
So what do you think of the research? Share your thoughts by commenting below!