Our brains 🧠 and body are amazing!
🤓Here’s some Neuro information relating to gymnastics and performance:
If you are following the @tokyolympics you likely have heard about the “Twisties” and how they affect gymnasts’ 🤸🏾♂️ ability to perform aerial maneuvers. Here is a simple overview of the neural science to help explain this phenomenon.
1. To coordinate ourselves in space we use information perceived in the environment through sensations in the body (joints, muscles), inner ear (vestibular), and our eyes (visual, oculomotor).
2. When we move, our brain 🧠 coordinates all sensations to provide spatial awareness and maintain balance.
3. During turning, spinning, and rotational movements 🤸🏾♂️ many reflexes of our eyes-head-trunk occur to provide stability.
4. It is important to know these reflexes are DIFFERENT during regular daily activities and if we are being rotated passively (ie roller coaster) versus active aerial gymnastics (ie somersault with twisting).
5. During daily activities and/or passive rotation of the head our eyes 👀 move automatically in a distinct pattern. This can be a slow or fast movement depending on the type of reflex. These reflexes help stabilize our vision and posture.
6. During gymnastics aerial maneuvers, the reflex eye movements triggered by the head and body rotation ARE INHIBITED by alternative body reflexes and conscious control by the gymnast. This becomes part of the gymnasts’ automatic motor plan to MAINTAIN SPATIAL AWARENESS.
7. However, the motor plan CAN BE interrupted. If this happens, the passive eye-head-trunk reflexes dominate and the gymnast may lose their position sense. This is extremely dangerous and places the gymnast at great risk of serious injury.
8. Motor plan disrupters may include a highly stressful environment or event, PTSD, injury, sensory changes, poor training plan, and/or a functional neurological issue.
9. Similar phenomena (albeit via different mechanisms) to the “twisties” are the “yips” and “performance anxiety/choking”. The yips are likely caused by excessive muscle activation (ie lack of inhibition). Performance anxiety is multi-factorial but mostly involves distraction, self-doubt and thoughts of negative consequence.
10. Solutions to the “twisties” can be altered training methods, psychological strategies, and/or a neurological assessment of eye-head-trunk reflexes and motor control.