Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

STACK Expert Chris Costa cites research that shows you can train your brain to be faster in order to improve your athletic performance.

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Believe it or not, there may be a way to increase athletic performance by changing neurological signals that increase brain speed.

In the mid 1970s, Rodger Bailey, a neuro-linguistic programmer, began studying athletes with ADHD who struggled with concentration. He found that the brain operates like a computer, working in a sequence that allows information to flow down a long chain. If there's a signaling flaw anywhere in the chain, it affects the whole sequence.

Mr. Bailey found that we can eliminate erratic signals by changing our brain's timing. To do this, he came up with a specific set of precision movements that include more than 1,000 repetitions. These repetitions are not like doing 1,000 Squats, though they are interactive. They're more like closing your eyes, intuitively hearing the quarterback release the ball, and moving your arms in place to catch the ball. By the end of the session, signals along your brain's speed highway should be moving faster. By the start of the next session, you should be able to complete the invisible catch movement in a shorter time than before.

When Bailey tried his methods on ADHD athletes, they were able to focus longer. Their brains' timing had evolved, and the athletes became quicker and more agile.

Most people experience 22 milliseconds of what Bailey refers to as lag time—the time it takes for the brain to send a signal to the motor unit responsible for movement. After training with Bailey, athletes saw lag times as short as 10 milliseconds.

For example, by shortening lag time in the brain, a sprinter would take less time to send signals to his or her legs. The sprinter could complete each stride milliseconds quicker. Or a hockey goalie could "see" the puck coming into his glove. His reflexes would quicken, and he'd able to read a play much faster. Getting into position would no longer be a thought, but a reaction.

Coaches want players who react, not think. Thinking is for the bench. The time it takes to think on the field—that split second—can be the difference between success or failure.

Bailey found it takes roughly 15 one-hour sessions for an average high school athlete to function at the level of a standout varsity player. He's currently reaching out to universities to produce a case study on NCAA D-I athletes to test his theory.

If you would like to communicate with Mr. Bailey, he can be reached at rodger.bailey.2000@gmail.com.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: REACTION TIME | FASTER | SPRINTER