Neuroscience and Golf
By Taylor Spalding
A couple of months ago, I listened to a radio interview of a mother and son science writing team. They wrote a book titled, "The Body Has a Mind of its Own." I wrote the followng mini-article as I collected my thoughts about what they said. As of today ( November 16, 2007) I have yet to read the book. However, I do look forward to it. I will post a more extensive review after I read it.
From the perspective of neuroscience, the body operates in something known as peri-personal space. This means that the space we can potentially occupy in any defined movement or intentional athletic action is just as important as the space we physically displace at any given time during that movement. The mind locates the body in space through it's proprioceptive body map and balances itself through it's vestibular body map.
That is how the author's expressed it. Here is my take on it.
The key to proficiency, athleticism, and aestheticism in any movement (particularly in sports, dance, or martial arts) is the development of these body maps in a stable emotional, psychological, and spiritual context. Establishing these body maps early on in the learning process is the key to optimal performance. That is why, as Sir Walter Simpson pointed out, the golfer who picks up the game as an adult is at a distinct disadvantage to the player who picks up the game in early childhood. The adult novice establishes his body maps under the images that have already been ingrained in youth. He draws upon his own pre-conceived notions of his abilities or lack of abilities. In addition, the neuro-associations that have been reinforced over the years have conditioned the mind to believe that attacking the problem using the mind will lead to improvement. In such a case the player is prone to over-cenceptualization.
Tiger Woods is a prime example of how this works. His body maps were established at a very young age and survived the tempering process of varying outside conditions and experiences. The adult novice, on the other hand, allows outside conditions to filter through and influence the development of a newly introduced body map. The slight alteration in the body map as one moves through time, in swing, from swing to swing, and from round to round, results in the inconsistency that most true golfers despise. As chaos theory explains, small changes at the centre result in big changes at the periphery. So what is the novice to do?
The remedy here is to go back to the vestibular body map and work at establishing balance first! ... establish a firm conviction in the sense of balance. The brain cannot locate the body in space if the body is not in balance. In light of this, golf is a sport, a dance, and a martial art. And when wielding an instrument of any sort, be it a sword, a bo staff, a baseball bat, or a golf club, there in fact must be counter-balance if there is to be balance. We are adding extension and weight to the system. This fact is undeniable! Learning how to work oneself into the perfect state of counter-balance is the absolute building block of a great golf swing ... and centering is the key!
Ultimately, it comes down to re-conditioning the body and brain to have new connections. I will soon explain the most perfect way to develop new positive brain/body associations. Look for new video.
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