Soccer athletes are superior to non-athletes at perceiving soccer-specific and non-sport specific human biological motion

Article (PDF Available)inFrontiers in Psychology 6:1343(1343) · September 2015with 256 Reads
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01343
Recent studies have shown that athletes’ domain specific perceptual-cognitive expertise can transfer to everyday tasks. Here we assessed the perceptual-cognitive expertise of athletes and non-athletes using sport specific and non-sport specific biological motion perception (BMP) tasks. Using a virtual environment, university-level soccer players and university students’ non-athletes were asked to perceive the direction of a point-light walker and to predict the trajectory of a masked-ball during a point-light soccer kick. Angles of presentation were varied for orientation (upright, inverted) and distance (2 m, 4 m, 16 m). Accuracy and reaction time were measured to assess observers’ performance. The results highlighted athletes’ superior ability compared to non-athletes to accurately predict the trajectory of a masked soccer ball presented at 2 m (reaction time), 4 m (accuracy and reaction time), and 16 m (accuracy) of distance. More interestingly, experts also displayed greater performance compared to non-athletes throughout the more fundamental and general point-light walker direction task presented at 2 m (reaction time), 4 m (accuracy and reaction time), and 16 m (reaction time) of distance. In addition, athletes showed a better performance throughout inverted conditions in the walker (reaction time) and soccer kick (accuracy and reaction time) tasks. This implies that during human BMP, athletes demonstrate an advantage for recognizing body kinematics that goes beyond sport specific actions.
published: 03 September 2015
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01343
Edited by:
Ana Bengoetxea,
Universidad del País Vasco – Euskal
Herriko Unibertsitatea, Spain
Reviewed by:
Markus Lappe,
University of Münster, Germany
Karen Zentgraf,
University of Münster, Germany
Thomas Romeas,
Visual Psychophysics and Perception
Laboratory, School of Optometry,
Université de Montréal,
3744 Jean-Brillant, Montreal,
QC H3T 1P1, Canada
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Movement Science and Sport
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 17 June 2015
Accepted: 21 August 2015
Published: 03 September 2015
Romeas T and Faubert J (2015)
Soccer athletes are superior
to non-athletes at perceiving
soccer-specific and non-sport specific
human biological motion.
Front. Psychol. 6:1343.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01343
Soccer athletes are superior to
non-athletes at perceiving
soccer-specific and non-sport
specific human biological motion
Thomas Romeas*and Jocelyn Faubert
Visual Psychophysics and Perception Laboratory, School of Optometry, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada
Recent studies have shown that athletes’ domain specific perceptual-cognitive expertise
can transfer to everyday tasks. Here we assessed the perceptual-cognitive expertise
of athletes and non-athletes using sport specific and non-sport specific biological
motion perception (BMP) tasks. Using a virtual environment, university-level soccer
players and university students’ non-athletes were asked to perceive the direction of
a point-light walker and to predict the trajectory of a masked-ball during a point-light
soccer kick. Angles of presentation were varied for orientation (upright, inverted) and
distance (2 m, 4 m, 16 m). Accuracy and reaction time were measured to assess
observers’ performance. The results highlighted athletes’ superior ability compared to
non-athletes to accurately predict the trajectory of a masked soccer ball presented
at 2 m (reaction time), 4 m (accuracy and reaction time), and 16 m (accuracy) of
distance. More interestingly, experts also displayed greater performance compared to
non-athletes throughout the more fundamental and general point-light walker direction
task presented at 2 m (reaction time), 4 m (accuracy and reaction time), and 16 m
(reaction time) of distance. In addition, athletes showed a better performance throughout
inverted conditions in the walker (reaction time) and soccer kick (accuracy and reaction
time) tasks. This implies that during human BMP, athletes demonstrate an advantage
for recognizing body kinematics that goes beyond sport specific actions.
Keywords: perceptual-cognitive expertise, sport performance, point-light walker, point-light soccer,
discrimination task, skill transfer
In sport, expertise is defined as consistent superior athletic performance over an extended period
(Wells et al., 2014). Sport science has demonstrated that some individuals can develop special
expertise due to extensive experience to highly specific action patterns (Sparrow and Sherman,
2001). In this regard, elite athletes can be considered as a striking example of higher expertise in
specific action recognition.
One of the most remarkable capacities of experts in sports is their ability to quickly
and accurately determine the key characteristics of motion which is a fundamental property
of the visual system (Dittrich, 1993;Sparrow and Sherman, 2001). A number of studies
has reported that elite athletes possess superior perceptual-cognitive skills compared to
sub-elite and/or novices in sports-specific tasks including advance visual cue utilization
Frontiers in Psychology | 1September 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 1343
Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
(Williams, 2000;Abernethy et al., 2001;Ward et al., 2002),
pattern recall and recognition (Smeeton et al., 2004;Abernethy
et al., 2005), visual search strategies (Williams, 2000;Vaeyens
et al., 2007) and the knowledge of situational probabilities
(Williams et al., 2006;North and Williams, 2008). Moreover,
this perceptual-cognitive expertise has also been evoked and
transferred in a sport-free context since athletes outperformed
non-athletes in socially realistic multitasking crowd scenes
involving pedestrians crossing streets (Chaddock et al., 2011)or
in learning complex and neutral dynamic visual scenes (Faubert,
2013). Overall, perceptual-cognitive expertise has been widely
reported using specific or context-free paradigms in different
kinds of sports (e.g., Starkes, 1987;Helsen and Starkes, 1999;
Williams et al., 1999;Ward and Williams, 2003;Mann et al., 2007;
Voss et al., 2010;Alves et al., 2013;Romeas et al., 2015).
A number of studies have highlighted the perceptual-cognitive
expertise of athletes in sport-specific context by using biological
motion perception (BMP) tasks (e.g., Abernethy et al., 2001;
Ward et al., 2002;Abernethy and Zawi, 2007;Calvo-Merino
et al., 2010;Hohmann et al., 2011). The term BMP was first
introduced by Johansson (1973) in an attempt to characterize
the movement patterns obtained from humans or more generally
from animate beings (Johansson, 1973). BMP involves the visual
systems’ capacity to recognize the kinematic presentation of the
human or animal movements reduced to a few moving dots
placed on the major joints of the body (Bellefeuille and Faubert,
1998;Ptito et al., 2003). When in motion, isolated points of
light on the joint centers give a compelling impression of the
action. This representation allows human observers to recognize
complex actions spontaneously from various animations such
as a walking human. BMP enables us to determine what the
observer perceives solely on kinematics, while other motion
cues are eliminated (Sparrow and Sherman, 2001)anditwas
shown to be equally effective as when the full body contours
are present during action (Bellefeuille and Faubert, 1998)oras
when the information is displayed through a video presentation
(Munzert et al., 2010). This task is recognized as a critical and
fundamental ability of social relevance (Troje, 2002), and is
a very strong dynamic cue that has been used, among others
(for a review see Troje, 2013), for collision avoidance (Ouellette
et al., 2009) or to highlight athlete expertise in sport science.
Furthermore, biological motion studies have shown potential for
the study of spatial characteristics of perception related to sport
action (Abernethy and Parker, 1989;Ward et al., 2002;Wright
et al., 2011) and has allowed researchers to assess perception
of sport action within a life-sized virtual environment using
stereoscopic displays (Bideau et al., 2010;Ida, 2012). The use
of virtual stimuli gives the participant vital depth information
and corresponds more closely to the players’ perspective and
behavior in real-life environments. For instance, it has been
shown that walker dimensions corresponding to a different
person at different distances from the observer varying from 1
to 16 m can generate dramatic performance differences in some
populations (Legault and Faubert, 2012;Legault et al., 2012). In
sports, Bideau et al. (2003) showed that an interactive, immersive
virtual handball court with a realistically animated handball
player (from motion capture) throwing the ball toward the goal
elicited expert handball goalkeeper responses similar to real-
world responses. Virtual reality involves stereoscopy (binocular
disparity) which is required in situations where fast, complex
and dynamic elements overlap (e.g., body joints in motion).
For instance, stereoscopy has been shown to help disambiguate
object occlusions when processing abstract dynamic visual
scenes (Faubert and Allard, 2013). It is also suggested that
stereoscopic information critically affects human perceptual
motor performance. For instance, it has been shown that good
stereo vision allows for significant learning enhancement during
a tennis ball catching task when comparing to individuals with
poor stereo acuity (Mazyn et al., 2007). Stereoscopy gives explicit
depth cues that can help to disambiguate the perception of
biological motion and avoid ambiguity (facing toward the viewer
bias) in facing experiments (Vanrie et al., 2004;Jackson and
Blake, 2010;de Lussanet and Lappe, 2012). To our knowledge,
no study has yet to explore athlete’s expertise in both sport-
specific and non-sport specific BMP contexts using virtual
In the present study, we aimed to assess the degree of
expertise between soccer players and non-athletic young adults
in a virtual environment with two biological motion facing tasks
slightly different in nature: a point-light walker and a point-
light soccer kick. Whereas one stimulus represents an everyday
task, e.g., perception of a walking human, the other one belongs
to a specific action pattern category that is thought to require
some expertise for efficient processing. Evidence suggests that
BMP should be influenced by the observers’ familiarity with
the recognized action (Calvo-Merino et al., 2010). Moreover,
it is known that the human perceptual system can learn a
very subtle BMP task, based solely on the previous visual
experience, but also even more strongly on motor experience
(Calvo-Merino et al., 2010). Here, we are interested to see if
athletes’ perceptual-cognitive expertise can also benefit to non-
sport specific context as it was recently suggested that they are
better at perceiving human body movements (Wei et al., 2011).
Based on previous evidence, we hypothesized that athletes would
perform better than non-athletes in predicting the trajectory
of a masked soccer ball based solely on the body kinematics
of the kicker (sport-specific expertise). In addition, we think
that athletes’ perceptual-cognitive expertise could expand to a
greater general context such as the perception of a normal
human walker’s kinematics which is void of sport related action.
Young soccer players and non-athlete adults were tested using
the aforementioned biological motion facing tasks in which
the angle and distance of presentation were varied in order to
modify task difficulty (see Saunders et al., 2010;Legault et al.,
Materials and Methods
Fifty-nine adults participated in the study, including forty
university soccer players and nineteen non-athletes. All subjects
reported normal or corrected-to-normal vision (6/6 or better)
with normal stereoacuity (50 s of arc or better). Participant levels
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Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
TABLE 1 | Participants’ information (±SEM).
Participant nMean Age (years) Hours of weekly physical training
Athletes 40 21.51 ±0.32 9.03 ±0.69
Non-athletes 19 24.21 ±0.50 1.42 ±0.41
of physical activity are reported in Tab l e 1 .Noneofthesubjects
had previous experience with biological motion displays. The
experimental protocol and related ethics issues were evaluated
and approved by the Comité d’Éthique de la Recherche en Santé
of Université de Montréal and were carried out in accordance
with the World Medical Association Helsinki Declaration. All
study and gave their verbal and written informed consent to
The biological motion task was conducted using a fully immersive
virtual environment (EON IcubeTM ). The EON IcubeTM is a
7×10 ×10 feet room that includes three rigid back projection
surface walls (one frontal and two laterals) and a reflective floor.
Four high-resolution projectors were synchronized and the image
was updated in real-time to maintain the true viewing perspective
of the observer. The EON IcubeTM was under the computer
control of an Intel Xeon E5530 (NVIDIA Quadro FX 5800
graphic card) along with four Hewlett Packard Z800 workstations
generating a stereoscopic environment. The stereoscopy was
generated with CrystalEyes R
4 s (RealD) active shutter glasses
synchronized at 120 Hz.
The biological motion front-facing task (Figure 1) consisted of
the discrimination of the direction (right or left) of a point-
light walker and a point-light soccer kick. The point-light walker
(Troje, 2008;Legault et al., 2013) and soccer kick (adapted
from motion capture studio) were
dynamic representations of human forms and were made up
of 15 black dots, which represented the head, shoulders, hips,
elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles on a white background. Each
dot had a diameter of 0.1 m. The height of the point-light walker
and soccer kick was 1.80 m disposed at a virtual distance from
the observer of 2, 4, and 16 m subtending 42, 24, and 6.4of
visual angle, respectively. The duration of the presentation lasted
for 1 s and contained 30 (walker) or 46 (soccer) frames. In
the soccer task, the foot-to-ball contact moment was provided
at 0.6 s. The inter-stimulus interval was 500 ms. Point-light
walkers and soccer kicks were, respectively, presented walking
or kicking leftward or rightward (forced choice paradigm).
A constant stimuli procedure with random angles of presentation
across trials was used for the point-light walkers (6, 4, 2,
0, 2, 4, and 6from front-facing) and the point-light soccer
kicks (15, 8, 4, 2, 0, 2, 4, 8, and 15from front-
facing). All of the angles were randomly presented forty times
in each experimental block and their order of presentation
varied according to the constant stimuli procedure. In each
block, the distance and orientation was held constant. For each
FIGURE 1 | Front-facing biological motion perception (BMP) tasks. The
connecting black lines and the balls are used here as a visual aid and were
not presented during the experiment. (A) The task consists of choosing
whether an animated point-light walker is walking rightward or leftward from
the subjects own vertical reference. In short, the task is to determine whether
the walker’s predicted path will end up to the left or the right of the subject’s
own vertical center of reference. (B) The task consists of choosing whether an
animated point-light soccer player is kicking a ball to the right or to the left of
the subject’s own vertical center of reference.
one of the two BMP tasks, there were six blocks in total that
were classified according to distance (2, 4, and 16 m) and
orientation (upright and inverted) such as 2 m upright, 4 m
upright, 16 m upright, 2 m inverted, 4 m inverted, 16 m
Two sessions were used to separately evaluate the point-light
walker and the point-light soccer kick tasks. One to seven days
were allowed between each session. The order of session was
randomized between subjects. During one session, each observer
randomly started with either the blocks for the three upright
distance conditions followed by the three inverted distance
conditions or the opposite. The presentation of the blocks for
the three distances was also randomized for each participant.
A session lasted from about 45 min (walker) to 1 h (soccer)
including small breaks (1 min) between each one of the six
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Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
blocks of presentation. Each participant sat at 1.2 m from the
EON IcubeTM’s central wall with eye height at 1.45 m from the
ground. They were asked to wear stereoscopic goggles and to
fixate straight ahead. One practice block including 10 trials was
then presented before each session, in which the participants
had to efficiently and quickly identify between the direction of
the point-light walker or the direction of the point-light soccer
kick. As in the practice trial, each observer’s task consisted
of a forced choice paradigm by discriminating the point-light
walker (walking leftward or rightward relative to the observer)
and soccer kick’s (kicking leftward or rightward relative to the
observer) direction as efficiently and as quickly as possible, using
an Xbox 360 controller including a left hand-button (left bumper
for left answers) and a right hand-button (right bumper for right
Response Accuracy
Percentages of response accuracy for point-light walker
and soccer kick were averaged across negative and positive
corresponding angles because they were proportionally
distributed (no bias was observed). For each participant
and each condition, we plotted a fit using a non-linear regression
(logistic function) with the software CurveExpert Professional
2.2.0. We then extrapolated the value corresponding to the
just-noticeable difference (75% of response accuracy) in addition
to the corresponding slope and used them as dependant variables
(angular threshold and slope) to compare the two groups. We
also extrapolated the value of response accuracy corresponding
to the maximal angle of presentation (6for walker, 15for
soccer kick) to compare upright and inverted condition because,
in some inverted conditions, the just-noticeable difference
was not reached. We performed the analysis using IBM SPSS
statistics v19. We used parametric tests when the homogeneity of
variances (Levene’s test) was non-significant. Otherwise, we used
non-parametric tests.
A mixed-design analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated
measures with the between-subject factor group (Athletes and
Non-athletes) and the within-subject factor distances (2, 4, and
16 m) was applied on the angular threshold (for 75% of response
accuracy). This was to compare the accuracy of performance
between groups in the upright condition. Differences between
groups were determined using independent t-tests for each
distance of presentation. We used non-parametric Mann–
Whitney U-tests on the slope values to compare differences
between groups.
Soccer kick
We used non-parametric Mann–Whitney U-tests on the angular
threshold values (for 75% of response accuracy) to compare
differences between groups for each distance of presentation in
the upright condition. A mixed-design ANOVA with repeated
measures with the between-subject factor group (Athletes and
Non-athletes) and the within-subject factor distances (2, 4,
t-tests to determine differences between groups. Moreover,
three non-athletes participants were not taken into account
throughout this analysis because their score did not reach
the just-noticeable difference due to the difficulty of the
Walker vs. soccer kick
A repeated measures ANOVA with the within-subject factors
applied on the angular threshold (for 75% of response accuracy)
and slope.
Inversion effect
A mixed-design ANOVA with repeated measures with the
between-subject factor group (Athletes and Non-athletes) and
the within-subject factor distances (2, 4, and 16 m) and
orientations (upright, inverted) was applied on response accuracy
(for maximal angle) for the walker task to mainly confirm the
inversion effect. Differences between groups were determined
using independent t-tests for each distance of presentation in
the inverted condition. To assess the inversion effect in the
soccer kick task, a non-parametric Wilcoxon test was used to
compare the response accuracy (for maximal angle) between
upright and inverted conditions for each distance of presentation.
Differences in the inverted condition between groups were
determined using a Mann–Whitney U-test for each distance of
Reaction time
Reaction time of each participant was averaged for distance (2, 4,
16 m) and orientation (upright, inverted) conditions. To perform
the analysis, we used parametric tests when the homogeneity of
variances was non-significant (Levene’s test). Otherwise, we used
non-parametric tests.
We used a non-parametric Mann–Whitney U-test to compare
differences in reaction time between groups for each distance of
presentation in the upright condition.
Soccer kick
A mixed-design ANOVA with repeated measures with the
between-subject factor group (Athletes and Non-athletes) and
the within-subject factor distances (2, 4, and 16 m) was applied
on the reaction time. Differences between the two groups
were determined using independent t-tests for each distance of
presentation in the upright condition.
Walker vs. soccer kick
A repeated measures ANOVA with the within-subject factors
applied on the reaction time.
Inversion effect
To assess the inversion effect in the walker task, a non-parametric
Wilcoxon test was used. Differences in the inverted condition
between groups were determined using a Mann–Whitney U-test
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Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
for each distance of presentation. For the soccer kick task, a
mixed-design ANOVA with repeated measures with the between-
subject factor group (Athletes and Non-athletes) and the within-
subject factor distances (2, 4, and 16 m) and orientations
(upright, inverted) was applied, mainly to confirm the inversion
effect. Differences between groups in the inverted condition
were determined using independent t-tests for each distance of
Response Accuracy (Table 2)
The analysis of angular thresholds revealed a significant
interaction between distances ×groups which reflected a
difference in BMP between the groups for the different distances
of presentation [F(2,114) =4.586, p=0.012, η2=0.074;
Figure 2A]. Independent t-tests showed a significant difference
in BMP between groups at 4 m of distance [t(57) =−2.051,
p=0.045], a nearly significant difference at 2 m of distance
[t(57) =−1.934, p=0.058], and no significant difference at 16 m
[t(57) =0.276, p=0.783]. The slope analysis demonstrated a
significant difference in BMP between groups at 4 m of distance
(U=257.0, p=0.046) but no significant difference at 2 m
(U=300.0, p=0.194) and 16 m (U=307.0, p=0.236).
The analysis of angular thresholds demonstrated a significant
difference in BMP between groups at 4 m (U=211.0, p=0.048)
and 16 m of distance (U=176.0, p=0.009) but not at
2m(U=231.5, p=0.108; Figure 2B). Whereas there
was no significant interaction between distances ×groups
[F(2,108) =1.772, p=0.175, η2=0.032], there was
a significant difference in the slopes between groups at
4m[t(54) =2.085, p=0.042] and 16 m of distance
[t(54) =2.847, p=0.006] but not at 2 m [t(54) =1.709,
Walker vs. soccer kick
The analysis of angular thresholds revealed a strong significant
effect of the task [F(1,55) =50.414, p<0.001, η2=0.478] which
highlighted the complexity of the soccer kick task compared
to the walker task. There was also a general significant effect
of distances [F(2,110) =4.980, p=0,009, η2=0.083].
The analysis of slopes demonstrated the same effects for task
[F(1,55) =162.613, p<0.001, η2=0.747] and distances
[F(2,110) =9.209, p<0.001, η2=0.143]. Participants’
individual performance for the two tasks has been plotted
(Figure 3A).
Inversion effect
A strong significant effect of orientation (upright, inverted)
was revealed throughout the walker task [F(1,57) =187.428,
p<0.001, η2=0.767]. However, there was no significant
difference between groups in the inverted condition at 2 m
[t(57) =1.457, p=0.151], 4 m [t(57) =1.582, p=0.119],
and 16 m [t(57) =0.900, p=0.372]. The same inversion effect
was demonstrated in the soccer kick task at 2 m (Z=−6.028,
p<0.001), 4 m (Z=−5.646, p<0.001), and 16 m (Z=−5.878,
p<0.001) of distances. Contrary to the walker task, there was
a difference between groups in the response accuracy at 2 m
(U=233.0, p=0.017), 4 m (U=225.0, p=0.012), and 16 m
(U=247.5, p=0.031) in inverted condition.
TABLE 2 | Mean (±SEM) response accuracy (angular threshold [75%], slope and response accuracy for maximal angle) between groups in the two tasks.
Response accuracy
Point-light Walker Soccer kick
Group Athletes Non-athletes p-value Athletes Non-athletes p-value
Distance and orientation
Angular threshold (just-noticeable difference in ) for 75% of response accuracy
2mUpright 2.25±0.16 2.86 ±0.32 0.058 10.08 ±0.87 21.30 ±4.80 0.108
10.47 ±0.84 8.61 ±1.18 0.194 3.43 ±0.36 2.35 ±0.43 0.093
4mUpright 1.69±0.14 2.24 ±0.25 0.045 9.64 ±0.94 20.21 ±4.76 0.048
14.44 ±1.20 10.10 ±1.24 0.046 3.30 ±0.27 2.31 ±0.30 0.042
16 m Upright 1.76 ±0.13 1.69 ±0.16 0.783 8.01 ±0.62 18.08 ±3.46 0.009
12.75 ±1.03 10.94 ±1.63 0.236 4.23 ±0.41 2.28 ±0.39 0.006
Response accuracy (%) at 615
2 m Inverted 77.62 ±2.51 70.83 ±4.45 0.151 71.85 ±2.66 60.21 ±2.49 0.017
4 m Inverted 76.36 ±2.65 68.57 ±4.69 0.119 71.74 ±2.55 60.70 ±3.18 0.012
16 m Inverted 63.89 ±2.51 60.18 ±2.98 0.372 72.14 ±2.72 61.95 ±2.85 0.031
*p <0.05.
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Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
FIGURE 2 | Athletes and non-athletes’ angular threshold (mean)
extrapolated from response accuracy to the direction of a:
(A) point-light walker and (B) point-light soccer kick for multiple
distance of presentation.
Reaction Time (Table 3)
The analysis demonstrated a significant difference between
groups at 2 m (U=141.0, p<0.001), 4 m (U=200.0, p=0.004),
and 16 m (U=243.0, p=0.026) of distance.
Whereas there was no significant interaction between
distances ×groups [F(2,114) =0.686, p=0.506, η2=0.012],
there was a significant difference between groups at 2 m
[t(57) =−2.416, p=0.019] and 4 m [t(57) =−2.304, p=0.025]
but not at 16 m [t(57) =−1.505, p=0.138] of distance.
Walker vs. soccer kick
There was a strong significant effect of the task
[F(1,58) =230.431, p<0.001, η2=0.799] which highlighted
the complexity of the soccer kick task compared to the walker
task. There was also a general significant effect of distances
[F(2,116) =3.309, p=0,040, η2=0.054]. Participants’
individual performance for the two tasks has been plotted
(Figure 3B).
Inversion effect
A significant inversion effect was demonstrated in the walker task
at 2 m (Z =−2.914, p=0.004), 4 m (Z=−2.657, p=0.008),
and 16 m (Z=−4.499, p<0.001) of distances. Moreover,
there was a significant difference between groups in the inverted
condition at 2 m (U=246.0, p=0.030), 4 m (U=232.0,
p=0.016), and 16 m (U=230.0, p=0.015). A significant
effect of orientation was also revealed throughout the soccer task
[F(1,57) =4.736, p=0.034, η2=0.770]. In addition, there was
a significant difference between groups in the inverted condition
at 2 m [t(57) =−2.680, p=0.010] and 16 m [t(57) =−2.179,
p=0.033] but not at 4 m [t(57) =−1.654, p=0.104].
For the first time, the present study explored the level of
expertise of young adult soccer players and non-athlete adults
in both sport-specific and non-sport specific BMP contexts by
using a 3D point-light walker and soccer kick. As expected,
athletes performed better than non-athletes throughout the
domain-specific task (soccer kick); but more interestingly, they
also showed a greater performance than non-athletes toward
a more fundamental and common task such as the facing
discrimination of the direction of a human walker. This was
particularly obvious when the participant was tested at the
critical distance for collision avoidance (4 m). Athletes also
demonstrated higher performance than non-athletes in inverted
conditions. We did not find a speed-accuracy tradeoff between
the two groups, however, soccer players produced more correct
answers within shorter reaction times which highlighted their
superior performance. According to these results, athletes appear
to demonstrate a general, non-sport specific, perceptual-cognitive
advantage that benefits to the recognition of human body
kinematics in everyday life.
Sport Specific Expertise
The results obtained from the point-light soccer kick task
demonstrated that experts were more accurate (4 m, 16 m) and
faster (2 m, 4 m) than non-athletes in predicting the direction of
the soccer kick. This result confirms previous literature, which
showed evidence of athlete’s perceptual-cognitive expertise in
sport-specific environment. Examples using BMP have shown
that racquet sport experts showed better prediction accuracy
on stroke direction than non-experts (Abernethy et al., 2001;
Ward et al., 2002;Abernethy and Zawi, 2007)andthat
professional basketball players were faster and more accurate
than novices in recognizing basketball dribbles (Hohmann et al.,
2011). Results from those studies suggested that the perceptual-
cognitive advantage is directly related to the athletes’ superior
pick-up of essential kinematic information. In our soccer kick
direction of the kick from the kinematic of the body motion
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Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
FIGURE 3 | Representation of response accuracy and reaction time as a function of each subject. (A) Athletes and non-athletes’ individual angular
threshold as a function of subject for the soccer kick (left) and the walker (right) tasks; (B) Athletes and non-athletes’ individual reaction time as a function of subject
for the soccer kick (left) and the walker (right) tasks.
TABLE 3 | Mean (±SEM) reaction time between groups in the two tasks.
Reaction time (s)
Point-light Walker Soccer kick
Group Athletes Non-athletes p-value Athletes Non-athletes p-value
Distance and
2mUpright 0.63±0.02 0.83 ±0.05 0.000 1.02 ±0.03 1.14 ±0.05 0.019
2 m Inverted 0.73 ±0.03 0.91 ±0.07 0.030 1.12 ±0.06 1.31 ±0.07 0.010
4mUpright 0.65±0.02 0.81 ±0.04 0.004 1.04 ±0.03 1.18 ±0.07 0.025
4 m Inverted 0.72 ±0.03 0.91 ±0.08 0.016 1.05 ±0.03 1.14 ±0.04 0.104
16 m Upright 0.63 ±0.02 0.72 ±0.04 0.026 1.03 ±0.03 1.11 ±0.06 0.138
16 m Inverted 0.74 ±0.03 0.90 ±0.08 0.015 1.09 ±0.03 1.19 ±0.04 0.033
*p <0.05.
alone because the ball was masked. In a similar experiment
using the French bowling game of ‘pétanque,Munzert et al.
(2010) tested participant’s prediction of the length of ones throw
(Munzert et al., 2010). The movement was displayed explicitly;
however, the outcome was masked and left for the participant
to anticipate. The authors argued that the prediction of the
outcome had to be extrapolated, because no direct information
was available on the ball trajectory. Participants clearly rely
on body movement features when predicting object properties
that occur subsequent to the movement. In soccer, but also in
racquet ball games, there is insufficient time to fully analyze
the trajectory of the ball before making a preparatory response
for a return shot. Consequently, perceptual expertise is reliant
on the anticipation based on an opponents’ bodily movements
and thus experts are able to identify these important cues
prematurely (Wright et al., 2011). One potential mechanism
given for the process of anticipation is that the observer
simulates the observed actions by using a predictive forward
Frontiers in Psychology | 7September 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 1343
Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
simulation which estimates the sensory effects of a movement.
The prediction is suggested to be based on one’s movement
experience and/or the observer’s own motor representations (see
Bischoff et al., 2015). In a recent fMRI study, Bischoff and
colleagues identified the core components of the anticipation
network throughout an anticipatory task of boules’ throw
(Bischoff et al., 2015).
Moreover, when taking a closer look at the observer’s reaction
times in discriminating the kick direction, the results indicate
that about 1 s is sufficient for the athlete to make a decision
whereas a non-athlete needs about 1.15 s. Knowing that the foot-
to-ball contact point of the task was settled at 0.6 s and that
0.15 s is usually necessary for the visual system to give a visuo-
motor response, the result indicated that athletes were able to
answer shortly afterward foot-to-ball contact while non-athletes
had to wait until the end of the movement when no other visual
information was given about the ball trajectory. This is confirmed
by the individual data which showed that the fastest soccer players
were able to answer within 0.8 s indicating that the foot-to-ball
contact was the key moment for the decision to be elicited. It
has already been demonstrated that goalkeepers who are shown
films of penalty kicks can anticipate the location of where the
ball will arrive at levels above chance before foot-to-ball contact
(Savelsbergh et al., 2002, 2005).
In addition, the result of the soccer experiment also supports
that BMP is learned through experience. From BMP studies,
innate predisposition of the visual system for BMP (with
orientation specificity) have been found in naïve newborn babies
(Simion et al., 2008). But it is rather suggested that BM sensitivity
depends on prior exposure or familiarity with a stimulus. In fact,
a number of studies have shown that visual and motor expertise
enhanced BMP (Casile and Giese, 2006;Calvo-Merino et al.,
2010). Furthermore, it was also demonstrated that an individual’s
own motor representations are activated more effectively by more
familiar movements (Bischoff et al., 2012). Our study supports
that an individuals’ involvement in soccer increased BMP for
soccer-specific kinematic scenes.
General Perceptual-Cognitive Expertise
In addition, a more striking result revealed that soccer players
were also superior to non-athletes in accurately (2m,4m)
and rapidly (2 m, 4 m, 16 m) discriminating motion direction
in the front-facing BMP point-light walker task, in particular for
distances which are critical for collision avoidance (Legault et al.,
2012). Compared to non-athletes, their accuracy was also more
consistent across the different distances of presentation which
manifests a better capability to perceive body kinematics whether
it is presented at close or far distances. The human walker is
a general and common kinematics that both athletes and non-
athletes are exposed to in their daily lives. They can be both
considered as expert perceivers of human walkers. However, the
result of our experiment reveals that athlete’s perceptual-cognitive
expertise advantage generalizes to the perception of ‘non-sport
specific’ body kinematics.
A number of studies have observed that sport expertise is
linked with fundamental cognitive and perceptual functions
outside the sport-specific domain (Nougier et al., 1991). It is
well accepted that physical activity enhances brain plasticity and
improves cognitive and executive functions (for recent reviews
see Erickson et al., 2013;Vivar et al., 2013). For example,
a significant correlation has been demonstrated between the
results from the executive functions tests (neuropsychological
assessment tool) vs. the number of goals and assists the
players had scored two seasons later (Vestberg et al., 2012).
The authors suggested that results in cognitive function tests
predict the success of top-soccer players. Furthermore, higher
order cognitive function have been suggested to be relevant
in identifying new talent and development in youth soccer
players (Verburgh et al., 2014). Other studies have revealed
that athletes outperformed non-athletes in socially realistic
multitasking crowd scenes involving pedestrians crossing streets
(Chaddock et al., 2011). It was suggested that cognitive
skills trained in sport may have transferred positively on
to everyday multitasking abilities. Another example showed
athletes’ superiority in learning complex and neutral dynamic
visual scenes using the 3D-MOT task (Faubert, 2013). The
results showed a clear distinction between the level of athletic
performance and corresponding fundamental mental capacities
for learning an abstract and demanding dynamic scene task
void of sports context. The two last-cited paradigms intended
to activate and measure the higher-level cognitive abilities
subserved by the central nervous system which may play a more
general, rather than specific role in sport expertise (Voss et al.,
2010). According to our results on BMP with the point-light
walker scenario, we can hypothesize that the involvement in a
sport activity, e.g., soccer, would transfer advantages to other
tasks such as BMP, thus improving BMP sensitivity.
This result is supported by imagery studies showing that
BMP induced a selective activation of the brain, especially in
the superior temporal sulcus (STS; Oram and Perrett, 1994;
Vaina et al., 2001;Ptito et al., 2003). This region is part of the
action observation network (AON), a system that is involved
in action perception. The AON is comprized of the inferior
frontal gyrus, the dorsal premotor cortex, the inferior parietal
cortex, the superior parietal cortex, the inferior parietal sulcus,
the primary somatosensory cortex, the posterior medial temporal
gyrus, the fusiform face/body area, the visual area V5 and
more recently the cerebellum (Caspers et al., 2010;Balser et al.,
2014a,b). Studies on expertise investigated how the acquisition
of a skilled action (e.g., sport moves) affects AON activity
while observing the same movement. Those studies revealed a
stronger activation for experts in comparison to novices not
limited to the AON but recruiting also other brain regions
(Turella et al., 2013;Balser et al., 2014a,b). For instance, Balser
et al. (2014b) demonstrated an increased activation in areas
that subserve the AON following anticipation of tennis strokes
in experts and novices. Interestingly, they showed a stronger
activation in experts compared to novices demonstrating that
neural processing of anticipation depends on the expertise level.
At the same time, the expert group outperformed novices on
the behavioral level (anticipation task). Moreover, in another
study, Balser et al. (2014b) identified the superior parietal cortex
as a structure for the processing of domain-specific contextual
information (e.g., a domain-specific motor repertoire built up
Frontiers in Psychology | 8September 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 1343
Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
with experience) and the cerebellum as a structure for the storage
of internal forward models that allow a rapid prediction of the
action outcomes (Balser et al., 2014a). Recently, an imagery study
in athletes and non-athletes revealed an increase in thickness of
the STS, which was shown to be correlated to the level of sports
training (Wei et al., 2011). All of the evidence suggests that the
athletes are much better at perceiving movements performed
by others, even when insufficient perceptive information is
Inversion Effect
Regarding the inversion effect, our results are consistent with
previous studies, showing a better performance (accuracy and
reaction time) for the upright condition than for the inverted
condition (Dittrich, 1993;Pavlova and Sokolov, 2000;Legault
et al., 2012). This inversion effect is generally attributed to global
representations learned in a particular orientation. To exemplify
this phenomenon called ‘face inversion effect,’ upright faces are
more accurately and rapidly recognized when presented in their
canonical orientation rather than presented upside-down (Yin,
Furthermore, the performance during inverted conditions was
slightly better in athletes than non-athletes for point-light walker
(reaction time) and soccer kick (accuracy and reaction time)
tasks. It has recently been revealed that soccer players exhibit
enhanced visual-spatial abilities such as faster reaction time
to process rotated embodied stimuli compared to non-athletes
(Jansen et al., 2012). Those previous results are further supported
by our own data.
Exploring Expertise using BMP
In the present study, we also demonstrated that the levels of
performance (accuracy and reaction time) to discriminate a
point-light walker compared to a point-light soccer kick task
were strongly different. Mainly to avoid ceiling effect caused
by expertise, we decided to use point-light motions requiring
different types of expertise ranging from a complex sport-specific
environment to a motion we perceive in our every-day life.
Earlier, Dittrich (1993) had shown that locomotory actions such
as walking were recognized more accurately and faster than
social and instrumental actions such as dribbling a basketball or
boxing (Dittrich, 1993). The results of the present study support
Dittrich’s findings. It is known that observers rely mostly on
the feet to discriminate left from right-facing point-light walkers
(Troje and Westhoff, 2006;Chang and Troje, 2009;Saunders
et al., 2010).Otherevidencehaveshownthatexperiencedand
naive observers can also use information about the body structure
(global analysis of the entire human body) to judge the walking
direction during a facing task from time-scrambled sequences
(Lange and Lappe, 2007) or even from static (‘snapshots’) stimuli
(Reid et al., 2009). An interesting question to address in the future
would be to assess whether athletes are superior to non-athletes
in the total absence of kinematics while using the same static
stimuli as in the Reid et al. (2009) study. On the other hand,
discriminating the direction of a soccer kick may require different
sources of information. Evidence from film analysis and eye
tracker studies suggested that experts relied on local information
to anticipate the penalty kick from a striker. Generally, the
local motion was defined by the orientation of the non-kicking
foot (Franks and Hanvey, 1997;Savelsbergh et al., 2002, 2005).
However, within the same studies, fixation on local information
represented only a small portion of total fixation duration and
motion information was picked up by the periphery in areas off
of the foot and ball region (Savelsbergh et al., 2002, 2005). This
evidence suggests that, the anticipation of a kick does not simply
rely on local information illustrated by the angle of the non-
kicking foot. In fact, the action of kicking a ball while maintaining
stability is a complex kinematic that involves the participation of
the arms, legs, torso, and head; therefore, motion components
may be distributed across the body rather than localized to a
particular limb segment as reflected while walking. Diaz et al.
(2012) identified a list of sources of information used by subjects
to judge the direction of a kick: the yaw angle of the hips,
contact yaw, and two sources of distributed information (Diaz
et al., 2012). They suggested that kick direction was perceived
on the basis of distributed information, possibly in conjunction
with a reliable source of local information (e.g., contact yaw).
Distributed (soccer) vs. local (walker) information could help
explain the differences observed between our two BMP tasks.
Furthermore, we used varying angles of presentation
throughout BMP paradigms to avoid ceiling effect. As shown
earlier by Saunders et al. (2010), varying viewing angles produces
a change in accuracy; such that near frontal views (e.g., close to
0) induced a lower level of response accuracy than more side
views (e.g., 15;Saunders et al., 2010). Taken together, the results
confirmed that varying the viewing angle during a facing task and
the nature of the task increases BMP difficulty and therefore is an
appropriate technique to explore levels of expertise in human.
Throughout this study, we were able to highlight the sport
specific perceptual-cognitive expertise of soccer players using
BMP. Furthermore, an interesting finding revealed a general
perceptual-cognitive advantage in athletes, or enhancement of
BMP sensitivity, for perceiving a fundamental kinematic of action
(walker) compared to non-athletes. This result is in keeping with
recent evidence of athletes’ perceptual skill transfer to everyday
activities involving perceptual-cognitive abilities. It also supports
previous findings from imagery studies showing enhanced
cognitive activity in specific brain regions underlying action-
perception processes. As expected, we observed an inversion
effect but we also demonstrated that athletes were slightly better
than non-athletes for the inverted condition. On the whole, the
BMP paradigm is an appropriate measure for demonstrating
expertise. It lends itself to manipulation of multiple parameters in
order to assess specific properties of expert perceptual-cognitive
This work was supported by an NSERC discovery grant.
Frontiers in Psychology | 9September 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 1343
Romeas and Faubert Soccer enhances biological motion perception
The authors would like to thank Marjolaine Baril-Nadeau,
Marie-Pier Lavoie, and Marie-Pier Samson for their work
with the non-athlete participants. We thank Robyn Lahiji for
her help in editing the manuscript. We also would like to
thank the Carabins team of Université de Montréal for their
participation in the study. More precisely: Alain Lefebvre,
France brunet, Pat Raimondo, Kevin McConnell, and the
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
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Frontiers in Psychology | 11 September 2015 | Volume 6 | Article 1343
  • Preprint
    The present study introduces a virtual life-sized perceptual-cognitive paradigm combining three dimensional multiple object tracking (3D-MOT) with motor (Experiment 1) or perceptual (Experiment 2) decision-making tasks. The objectives were to assess the impact of training on task performance and to determine the best training conditions for improvement and learning. Seventy-one participants were randomly trained under one of four training conditions (isolated 3D-MOT task, 3D-MOT simultaneously combined with a decision-making task, consolidated 3D-MOT and decision-making task, isolated decision-making task). Task performance was evaluated using speed thresholds, decision accuracy (%) and reaction time (s). Findings showed that the dual-task paradigm allowed satisfactory degrees of performance on both tasks despite an important dual-task cost. Interestingly, the results seemed to favor consolidated over simultaneous training for dual-task performance when 3D-MOT was combined with a motor task. The amount of attentional shared resources in regards to the nature of the additional task was discussed.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Humans often falsely report having seen a causal link between two dynamic scenes if the second scene depicts a valid logical consequence of the initial scene. As an example, a video clip shows someone kicking a ball including the ball flying. Even if the video clip omitted the moment of contact (i.e., the causal link), participants falsely report having seen this moment. In the current study, we explored the interplay of cognitive-perceptual expertise and event perception by measuring the false-alarm rates of three groups with differing interests in football (soccer in North America) (novices, players, and FIFA referees). We used the event-completion paradigm with video footage of a real football match, presenting either complete clips or incomplete clips (i.e., with the contact moment omitted). Either a causally linked scene or an incoherent scene followed a cut in the incomplete videos. Causally linked scenes induced false recognitions in all three groups: although the ball contact moment was not presented, participants indicated that they had seen the contact as frequently when it was absent as in the complete condition. In a second experiment, we asked the novices to detect the ball contact moment when it was either visible or not and when it was either followed by a causally or non-causally linked scene. Here, instead of presenting pictures of the clip, the participants were give a two-alternative forced-choice task: “Yes, contact was visible”, or “No, contact was not visible”. The results of Experiment 1 indicate that conceptual interpretations of simple events are independent of expertise: there were no top-down effects on perception. Participants in Experiment 2 detected the ball contact moment significantly more often correctly in the non-causal than in the causal conditions, indicating that the effect observed in Experiment 1 was not due to a possibly influential design (e.g., inducing a false memory for the presented pictures). The theoretical as well as the practical implications are discussed. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s41235-016-0008-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The current study tests possible transfer effects from NT 3D MOT training among elite athletes from dynamic sports on executive brain functions, such as alerting, orienting, executive control, inhibition, shifting and updating. Sixty athletes from different sports, such as martial arts (boxing and wrestling), handball, soccer, orienteering, biathlon, alpine skiing, and Paralympic sports (sled hockey, badminton and table tennis), participated in a cross-over experiment-control group design over a period of 10 weeks. The results in the current study show specific training effects on training measures used by the NT 3D MOT tool, but no significant transfer effects on the executive functioning tests. The results are discussed based on the importance of training specificity and the mental state at the moment of NT 3D MOTtraining.
  • Thesis
    Full-text available
    In the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) Model of cognitive abilities, fluid intelligence (Gf) is defined as one’s ability to solve unfamiliar problems without the use of previously learned strategy. Gf is comprised of inductive, deductive, and mathematical reasoning abilities. Purpose: The purpose of the current study was to develop a sport-based test of fluid intelligence, assess the reliability of the instrument, and characterize athletes based on SBFIT (sport-based fluid intelligence test) scores. Methods: Forty-four males and 106 females completed the study. Of these participants, 83 played a collegiate-level (NCAA Division II or Student Life Sport) ball-based team sport; 1 played a non-ball team sport; 12 played a ball-based individual sport; 26 played a non-ball individual sport; and 28 were age-matched, non-athlete males and females from the general population. Participants completed a timed form A (n=147) of the SBFIT then retested on timed form B (n=76) or untimed form B (n=16). Results: An Independent T-Test revealed significant gender differences for performance on SBFIT form A and form B (p= .001; p=.002, respectively). A Paired-Samples T-Test revealed no significant differences between form A and form B on total score (p=.106), score on the first 15 items (p=.092), or score on the last 15 items (p=.476). A One-Way ANOVA revealed significant differences between male athletes versus female athletes (p=.001) and versus non-athletes (p=.003) on form A of the SBFIT. On form B of the SBFIT, a significant difference was found between male athletes and female athletes (p=.001), while a trend for significant differences was found between male athletes and non-athletes (p=.053). A very weak correlation was shown between sport confidence and total score on form A of the SBFIT (r=.177, p=.043), but not on form B (r=.219, p=.075). No correlations were observed between total score on form A or form B of the SBFIT and GPA, self-rated academic confidence, or self-rated intelligence. Conclusion: The results of this study support the SBFIT as a reliable cognitive measure. Although the current study did not find differences between athletes and non-athletes, a larger sample of non-athletes as well as strict categorical exclusion criteria based on sporting experience is necessary to observe the relationship between sport and fluid intelligence. The common finding of male-bias in tests with a strong visuospatial component was supported in the current study. Future research is necessary to determine the validity and further reliability of the SBFIT and to study the effects of sport on fluid intelligence and the effects of fluid intelligence on sport. Keywords: Fluid Intelligence, Cognition, Athletes, Performance, CHC, Sport-Based Fluid Intelligence, Visuospatial, Gender, Reliability
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The human mirror neuron system is believed to play an important role in facilitating the ability of athletes to anticipate the actions of an opponent. This system is often assessed with EEG by measuring event-related changes in mu (8–13 Hz) sensorimotor oscillations. However, traditional channel-based analyses of this measure are flawed in that due to volume conduction effects mu and non-mu alpha activity can become mixed. This flaw means it is unclear the extent to which mu activity indexes the mirror system, as opposed to other processes such as attentional demand. As a solution to this problem, we use independent component analysis to separate out the underlying brain processes during a tennis-related action observation and anticipation task. We investigated expertise-related differences in independent component activity. Experienced tennis players (N = 18) were significantly more accurate than unexperienced novices (N = 21) on the anticipation task. EEG results found significant group differences in both the mu and beta (15–25 Hz) frequency bands in sensorimotor components, with earlier and greater desynchronization in the experienced tennis players. In particular, only experienced players showed desynchronization in the high mu (11–13 Hz) band. No group differences were found in posterior alpha components. These results show for the first time that expertise differences during action observation and anticipation are unique to sensorimotor sources, and that no expertise-related differences exist in attention modulated, posterior alpha sources. As such, this paper provides a much cleaner measure of the human mirror system during action observation, and its modulation by motor expertise, than has been possible in previous work.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Team sports place high demands on visuospatial and other cognitive skills. However, there is a lack of research on visuospatial skills of elite athletes and there are heterogeneous results on basic cognitive skills of this population. Therefore, this series of studies tested different cognitive skills in elite team sports athletes. In Experiment 1, elite athletes were compared to recreational athletes, but no differences were observed between the groups in choice response time (CRT) and mental rotation (MR). To see if differences could be observed when the tested groups had a greater difference in expertise and more representative stimuli, in Experiment 2 we tested CRT and MR of elite athletes who had higher level of expertise, and we also used three-dimensional human stimuli. Overall, we still found no differences in MR; however, elite athletes did have shorter CRTs. In Experiment 3, instead of testing MR, we compared elite athletes’ and recreational athletes’ basic cognitive skills, such as processing speed, letter readout speed, memory span, and sustained attention. We found that elite athletes only performed better in sustained attention. Building on this data, in a supplementary analysis (Experiment 4) we tested whether MR and CRTs are correlated with basic cognitive skills. Results show that processing speed is the best predibator for MR, whereas letter readout speed explains most of the variance in CRTs. Finally, we discuss these findings against the backdrop of expertise and offer implications for future studies on mental rotation.
  • Article
    Sensorimotor synchronization is the coordination of rhythmic movement with an external beat. Dancers often synchronize each beat of their motion with an external rhythm. Compared with social dancing, competitive ballroom dancing requires a higher level of sensorimotor ability. Although previous studies have found that dance experience may facilitate sensorimotor synchronization, they did not examine this in competitive ballroom dancers. Thus, the present study compared sensorimotor synchronization in 41 nondancers and 41 skilled, competitive ballroom dancers as they performed a simple beat synchronization finger-tapping task. All participants finger-tapped freely at their preferred tempo before the formal experiments. Participants were then required to synchronize their finger-tapping with auditory, visual, or combined audiovisual signals in separate experiments and at varying tempos. To assess sensorimotor plasticity, the participants then repeated the free-tapping task after completing all three finger-tapping experiments. Compared with nondancers, dancers showed more accurate and stable beat synchronization. Dancers tapped before onset of all three types of sensorimotor stimulation, indicating a significant negative mean asynchrony and had a tendency to anticipate (predict) the stimuli. Dancers tended to auditory stimulation for beat sensorimotor synchronization, whereas nondancers tended to visual stimuli. Dancers had a faster tempo preference in the initial free-tapping task; however, the preferred tapping tempo increased in all participants in the second free-tapping task, suggesting that beat induction is affected by practice. Together these findings suggest that dance experience enhances sensorimotor synchronization and sensorimotor plasticity, with ballroom dancers tending to auditory stimulation for beat induction.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The cognitive-motor performance (CMP), defined here as the capacity to rapidly use sensory information and transfer it into efficient motor output, represents a major contributor to performance in almost all sports, including soccer. Here, we used a high-technology system (COGNIFOOT) which combines a visual environment simulator fully synchronized with a motion capture system. This system allowed us to measure objective real-time CMP parameters (passing accuracy/speed and response times) in a large turf-artificial grass playfield. Forty-six (46) young elite soccer players (including 2 female players) aged between 11 and 16 years who belonged to the same youth soccer academy were tested. Each player had to pass the ball as fast and as accurately as possible towards visual targets projected onto a large screen located 5.32 meters in front of him (a short pass situation). We observed a linear age-related increase in the CMP: the passing accuracy, speed and reactiveness of players improved by 4 centimeters, 2.3 km/h and 30 milliseconds per year of age, respectively. These data were converted into 5 point-scales and compared to the judgement of expert coaches, who also used a 5 point-scale to evaluate the same CMP parameters but based on their experience with the players during games and training. The objectively-measured age-related CMP changes were also observed in expert coaches’ judgments although these were more variable across coaches and age categories. This demonstrates that high-technology systems like COGNIFOOT can be used in complement to traditional approaches of talent identification and to objectively monitor the progress of soccer players throughout a cognitive-motor training cycle.
  • Article
    Working-memory capacity has been implicated as an influential variable when performing and learning sport-related skills. In this review, we critically evaluate evidence linking working-memory capacity with performing under pressure, tactical decision making, motor skill acquisition, and sport expertise. Laboratory experiments link low working-memory capacity with poorer performance under pressure and poorer decision making when required to inhibit distractions or resolve conflict. However, the generalizability of these findings remains unknown. While working-memory capacity is associated with the acquisition of simple motor skills, there is no such evidence from the available data for complex motor skills. Likewise, currently there is no evidence to suggest that a larger working-memory capacity facilitates the attainment of sport expertise.
  • Article
    Purpose: To review past attempts, current innovations, and future goals of robotic eye surgery. Methods: A Medline literature search using the words “robot” and “ophthalmology” was performed to identify all relevant literature. Pertinent articles were reviewed and content summarized based on context. Results: Purported potential benefits of robotic-assisted eye surgery include improved precision, reduced tremor, amplified scale of motion, and the potential of automation and telesurgical operation. Several investigators have created devices capable of performing individual intraocular tasks, and efforts are underway to develop platforms designed to allow completion of entire ophthalmic procedures. Conclusion: Although obstacles such as cost and availability exist, prior successes and future benefits of robotic eye surgery are promising reasons for the continuation of research efforts.
  • Article
    Three experiments examined the relative importance of attributes determined largely by the efficiency of the visual/central nervous system versus cognitive domain-specific skills, in the determination of expertise in soccer. In Experiment 1, expert and intermediate soccer players were assessed on various non-specific abilities including: processing (simple reaction time, peripheral reaction time, visual correction time), optometric (static, dynamic and mesopic acuity), and perimetric parameters (horizontal and vertical peripheral range). In Experiment 2, domain-specific variables were assessed including complex decision speed and accuracy, number of visual fixations, fixation duration, and fixation location in solving game problems. Stimuli were initially presented by slides (Experiment 2) and later by 16 mm film (Experiment 3). Eye movements were recorded and analysed. A stepwise discriminant analysis of both non-specific abilities and soccer-specific skills revealed an average squared canonical correlation=0.84, with the significant step variables all being domain-specific skills. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    This study examined the relative contribution of visual, perceptual, and cognitive skills to the development of expertise in soccer. Elite and sub-elite players, ranging in age from 9 to 17 years, were assessed using a multidimensional battery of tests. Four aspects of visual function were measured: static and dynamic visual acuity; stereoscopic depth sensitivity; and peripheral awareness. Perceptual and cognitive skills were assessed via the use of situational probabilities, as well as tests of anticipation and memory recall. Stepwise discriminant analyses revealed that the tests of visual function did not consistently discriminate between skill groups at any age. Tests of anticipatory performance and use of situational probabilities were the best in discriminating across skill groups. Memory recall of structured patterns of play was most predictive of age. As early as age 9, elite soccer players demonstrated superior perceptual and cognitive skills when compared to their sub-elite counterparts. Implications for training perceptual and cognitive skill in sport are discussed.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Objectives: The ability to perform a context-free 3-dimensional multiple object tracking (3D-MOT) task has been highly related to athletic performance. In the present study, we assessed the transferability of a perceptual-cognitive 3D-MOT training from a laboratory setting to a soccer field, a sport in which the capacity to correctly read the dynamic visual scene is a prerequisite to performance. Design: Throughout pre- and post-training sessions, we looked at three essential skills (passing, dribbling, shooting) that are used to gain the upper hand over the opponent. Method: We recorded decision-making accuracy during small-sided games in university-level soccer players (n = 23) before and after a training protocol. Experimental (n = 9) and active control (n=7) groups were respectively trained during 10 sessions of 3D-MOT or 3D soccer videos. A passive control group (n = 7) did not received any particular training or instructions. Results: Decision-making accuracy in passing, but not in dribbling and shooting, between pre- and post-sessions was superior for the 3D-MOT trained group compared to control groups. This result was correlated with the players' subjective decision-making accuracy, rated after pre- and post-sessions through a visual analogue scale questionnaire. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this study represents the first evidence in which a non-contextual, perceptual-cognitive training exercise has a transfer effect onto the field in athletes.
  • Article
    -Anticipation is informed by experience. Having focused on action effects in the past will lead to differences when the focus is now on the effector. Boules-type throwing movements were presented as point-light displays of shoulder and arm-markers. Activation in motor-related areas measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging was compared between two tasks: Task A anticipating action effects and Task B judging the velocity of the hand marker. One group of participants performed a session of Task A followed by a session of Task B; the other group started with Task B followed by Task A. The group starting with Task A exhibited higher brain activation during Task A bilaterally in intraparietal areas and in right hemispheric frontal and premotor areas. These areas are known to be involved in effect estimation and action simulation. The second group showed higher activation during Task B in premotor cortex and human intraparietal area 3 of the right hemisphere. The results suggest that the instruction to focus on anticipating action effects facilitates the recruitment of core components of the simulation network during anticipation and when effect anticipation is not the primary intention.
  • Conference Paper
    Background / Purpose: Although the sensation of depth from stereoscopy in real-life contexts can be, on the phenomenological level, quite powerful (1), the extent of its functional benefit remains elusive. Stereoscopy can improve multiple object tracking (MOT) (2), but the nature of this advantage remains undetermined. Main conclusion: Overall benefit of stereoscopy for processing dynamic scenes comes from improved attention tracking by disambiguating targets from non-targets during occlusions.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    In many daily activities, and especially in sport, it is necessary to predict the effects of others' actions in order to initiate appropriate responses. Recently, researchers have suggested that the action-observation network (AON) including the cerebellum plays an essential role during such anticipation, particularly in sport expert performers. In the present study, we examined the influence of task-specific expertise on the AON by investigating differences between two expert groups trained in different sports while anticipating action effects. Altogether, 15 tennis and 16 volleyball experts anticipated the direction of observed tennis and volleyball serves while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The expert group in each sport acted as novice controls in the other sport with which they had only little experience. When contrasting anticipation in both expertise conditions with the corresponding untrained sport, a stronger activation of AON areas (SPL, SMA), and particularly of cerebellar structures, was observed. Furthermore, the neural activation within the cerebellum and the SPL was linearly correlated with participant's anticipation performance, irrespective of the specific expertise. For the SPL, this relationship also holds when an expert performs a domain-specific anticipation task. Notably, the stronger activation of the cerebellum as well as of the SMA and the SPL in the expertise conditions suggests that experts rely on their more fine-tuned perceptual-motor representations that have improved during years of training when anticipating the effects of others' actions in their preferred sport. The association of activation within the SPL and the cerebellum with the task achievement suggests that these areas are the predominant brain sites involved in fast motor predictions. The SPL reflects the processing of domain-specific contextual information and the cerebellum the usage of a predictive internal model to solve the anticipation task.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Executive functions might be important for successful performance in sports, particularly in team sports requiring quick anticipation and adaptation to continuously changing situations in the field. The executive functions motor inhibition, attention and visuospatial working memory were examined in highly talented soccer players. Eighty-four highly talented youth soccer players (mean age 11.9), and forty-two age-matched amateur soccer players (mean age 11.8) in the age range 8 to 16 years performed a Stop Signal task (motor inhibition), the Attention Network Test (alerting, orienting, and executive attention) and a visuospatial working memory task. The highly talented soccer players followed the talent development program of the youth academy of a professional soccer club and played at the highest national soccer competition for their age. The amateur soccer players played at a regular soccer club in the same geographical region as the highly talented soccer players and play in a regular regional soccer competition. Group differences were tested using analyses of variance. The highly talented group showed superior motor inhibition as measured by stop signal reaction time (SSRT) on the Stop Signal task and a larger alerting effect on the Attention Network Test, indicating an enhanced ability to attain and maintain an alert state. No group differences were found for orienting and executive attention and visuospatial working memory. A logistic regression model with group (highly talented or amateur) as dependent variable and executive function measures that significantly distinguished between groups as predictors showed that these measures differentiated highly talented soccer players from amateur soccer players with 89% accuracy. Highly talented youth soccer players outperform youth amateur players on suppressing ongoing motor responses and on the ability to attain and maintain an alert state; both may be essential for success in soccer.