- Football, soccer and hockey players have healthier brains
- Athletes who play a variety of team sports such as football, soccer and hockey have an enhanced ability to tamp down background electrical noise in their brain
- So, get involved in team sports to boost your brain power and sharpen your mind
Athletes have an enhanced ability to tamp down background electrical noise in their brain to better process external sounds, such as a teammate yelling a play or a coach calling to them from the sidelines, according to the study of nearly 1,000 participants, including approximately 500 Northwestern Division I athletes.
Kraus likens the phenomenon to listening to a DJ on the radio.
"Think of background electrical noise in the brain like static on the radio," Kraus said. "There are two ways to hear the DJ better: minimize the static or boost the DJ’s voice. We found that athlete brains minimize the background ’static’ to hear the ’DJ’ better."
"A serious commitment to physical activity seems to track with a quieter nervous system," Kraus said. "And perhaps, if you have a healthier nervous system, you may be able to better handle injury or other health problems."
Details of The Study
Kraus and her collaborators delivered speech syllables to study participants through earbuds and recorded the brain’s activity with scalp electrodes.
Findings of the Study
The team analyzed the ratio of background noise to the response to the speech sounds by looking at how big the response to sound was relative to the background noise. Athletes had larger responses to sound than non-athletes, the study showed.
Like athletes, musicians and those who can speak more than one language also have an enhanced ability to hear incoming sound signals, Kraus said. However, musicians’ and multilinguals’ brains do so by turning up the sound in their brain versus turning down the background noise in their brain.
"They all hear the ’DJ’ better but, the musicians hear the ’DJ’ better, because they turn up the ’DJ,’ whereas athletes can hear the ’DJ’ better because they can tamp down the ’static,’" Kraus said.
- Play Sports for a Quieter Brain: Evidence From Division I Collegiate Athletes - (https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738119892275)