Study: Time really does slow for top athletes
In this multiple exposure photo, Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Travis Blackley delivers against the Cleveland Indians in the fifth inning of a baseball game. / AP Photo/Mark Duncan
(CBS News) Athletes across all sports often claim that time moves slower during a critical play. A new study finds, that for an elite few, the perception of time really does slow down as they prepare to make a physical action.
"John McEnroe has reported that he feels time slows down as he is about to hit the ball," Dr. Nobuhiro Hagura of University College London told BBC News. "Our guess is that during the motor preparation, visual information processing in the brain is enhanced. So, maybe, the amount of information coming in is increased. That makes time be perceived longer and slower."
Hagura's study, published in "Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences," is rife with speculation, but certainly seems to lend credence to athlete's claims of time slowing down.
To test what was previously just anecdotes from sports stars, Hagura and his team had test participants react to flickering lights on a screen. Researchers found that participants who were asked to physically tap the screen reported having more time to make a decision than those who were asked simply to watch. Furthermore, the researchers found that participants reported having more time the more prepared they were to take action.
The exact mechanism taking place in the brain to slow time is not yet understood. Hagura hopes to run a follow-up test to refine the study.
"We now want to do these behavior experiments again while measuring the participants' brain activity with electroencephalography." Hagura told BBC News. "We can then look at what is happening in the visual cortex during the action preparation period."
Researchers speculate that the extent to which an athlete's brain slows time may be a factor in winning or losing just as much as pure physical ability. The team hopes to experiment with elite athletes in the future to further test the theory.
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