Consistent backswing crucial in helping sportspeople produce optimum results

August 10, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Golfers wanting to shoot below par or tennis players looking to smash their way past opponents should focus on their backswing in order to perfect new techniques quickly, research suggests.

Academics at the University of Plymouth and the Technical University of Munich assessed the speed at which people learned the basic skills which allowed them to achieve consistent results.

They showed that those who were able to perform consistent lead-in motions were able to perfect their techniques twice as quickly as those who couldn't.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, was led by Dr Ian Howard, Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in Computational Neuroscience within Plymouth's Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems.

He has previously led research which showed the nature of the follow-through has significant influence on the extent to which new skills are acquired.

As well as having implications in sport, researchers believe the current results could have implications for both skill learning and rehabilitation following neurological conditions, since it demonstrates that any immediately preceding movement needs to be consistent to achieve fast learning.

Dr Howard, who worked on the research with Plymouth colleagues Christopher Ford and Professor Angelo Cangelosi, said: "Rapid learning can be critical to ensure elite performance in a changing world or to recover basic movement after neural injuries. And while learning a new skill such as golf or tennis takes considerable practice, the rate at which we can compensate for environmental changes and learn new skills plays an important role in our performance. This research shows the final (or main) movement is only one part of the learning process and that generating a consistent lead-in allows us to learn new skills faster."

For the research, participants were asked to make two successive movements (a lead-in movement followed immediately by the main movement) while grasping the handle of a robotic device.

A second experiment then examined if watching a computer-generated lead-in movement before actively performing the main movement would have the same effect.

In both experiments, researchers found that increasing the variability of the active lead-in movements produced a large decrement in learning rate, whereas a corresponding increase in variability in visual lead-in movements did not.

This, they believe, has demonstrated for the first time that increasing active lead-in variability reduced the rate of motor adaptation, whereas changes in visual lead-in variability had little effect.

David Franklin, Professor of Neuromuscular Diagnostics in the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at the Technical University of Munich, added: "These findings may also have implications for stroke rehabilitation, where fast relearning, or recovery of movement, is desired, but this also needs to be balanced with generalization to everyday tasks."

Explore further: Practice really does make perfect

More information: Ian S. Howard et al, Active lead-in variability affects motor memory formation and slows motor learning, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-05697-z

Related Stories

Practice really does make perfect

January 8, 2015
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Plymouth have shown that follow-through - such as when swinging a golf club or tennis racket - can help us to learn two different skills at once, or to learn ...

Japanese children learn to write through rhythm

June 30, 2017
How do we learn to write? Associate Professor NONAKA Tetsushi (Kobe University Graduate School of Human Development and Environment) looked at the development of writing skills in Japanese first-grade students learning the ...

Learning with music can change brain structure, study shows

July 6, 2017
Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

Repetitive body movements may form long-lasting motor memory

March 10, 2016
Researchers in Japan have found that repetitive movements in slow-learning stages can alter an area of the brain responsible for movement, and help individuals retain these motor skills.

Older adults can improve movement by using same motor strategy as babies

June 16, 2017
A motor mechanism that has been attributed primarily to early development in babies and toddlers can also help older adults improve movement accuracy, according to new research from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

Motor cortex shown to play active role in learning movement patterns

May 4, 2014
Skilled motor movements of the sort tennis players employ while serving a tennis ball or pianists use in playing a concerto, require precise interactions between the motor cortex and the rest of the brain. Neuroscientists ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover fundamental pathology behind ALS

August 16, 2017
A team led by scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Mayo Clinic has identified a basic biological mechanism that kills neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and in a related genetic disorder, frontotemporal ...

Scientists use magnetic fields to remotely stimulate brain—and control body movements

August 16, 2017
Scientists have used magnetism to activate tiny groups of cells in the brain, inducing bodily movements that include running, rotating and losing control of the extremities—an achievement that could lead to advances in ...

The nerve-guiding 'labels' that may one day help re-establish broken nervous connections

August 16, 2017
Scientists have identified a large group of biological 'labels' that guide nerves to ensure they make the correct connections and control different parts of the body. Although their research was conducted with fruit flies, ...

Scientists give star treatment to lesser-known cells crucial for brain development

August 16, 2017
After decades of relative neglect, star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes are finally getting their due. To gather insight into a critical aspect of brain development, a team of scientists examined the maturation of astrocytes ...

Navigation and spatial memory—new brain region identified to be involved

August 16, 2017
Navigation in mammals including humans and rodents depends on specialized neural networks that encode the animal's location and trajectory in the environment, serving essentially as a GPS, findings that led to the 2014 Nobel ...

Prematurity leaves distinctive molecular signature in infants' cerebellum

August 15, 2017
Premature birth, which affects one in 10 U.S. babies, is associated with altered metabolite profiles in the infants' cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls coordination and balance, a team led by Children's National ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.