Guest Blog:Visualization Changes Neural Pathways, Repeated Failure leads to Failure
Arthur wrote this email to a basketball coach, but it has application in this area and he agreed that I could use it as a "guest blog" entry. Thanks Arthur
.....I recently read that Coach Izzo Is having Dawson practice free throws in an attempt at improving his accuracy. I believe this may be counter-productive based on an understanding of neuroscience.
On point is a scientific study on free throw improvement was conducted by Ellen Langer, Harvard U. She divided a basketball team into three groups.
One group was instructed to practice free-throw in the gym for a specific time period; another group was told not to practice free throws, but rather visualize throwing successful free throws for a specific time prior to falling asleep. The third group, used as a control, were told not to practice free throws. Baseline measures of each player’s free throw accuracy were taken prior to initiation of the study.
As it turned out, the control group's baseline had not changed when measured at the end of the study. I attribute this to the fact that the brain’s free throw synaptic pattern remained unchanged since there was no physical or mental free throw activity information upon which to modify the existing free throw synaptic pattern.
The other two groups on the other hand, significantly improved their throw accuracy over base line. Neither group performed any better than the other, so in this study, it did not matter whether free throws were practiced physically or mentally.
The reason the practice group did no better than the group that visualized is the brain records only patterns based on incoming sensory information, and cannot distinguish between real and visualization because the sensory information input into the brain is the same for both, and consequently the neural synaptic patterns formed, or modified was the same for both groups. I believe that having Dawson practice free throws while in a slump is counter productive, because the sensory information of the missed free throws acts to reinforce [strengthen] his current neural “slump” pattern.
This will not be the case utilizing visualization since Dawson will be instructed to only visualize successful free throws, including the swoosh of the ball as it falls into the net. By having him visualize only successful free throws the current pattern will be modified accordingly.
Dawson’s free throw success through visualization will be further enhanced if he is convinced that visualization will improve his free throwing ability, as well if coach Izzo is also convinced of its effectiveness.
In any event, If coach Izzo has his doubts of what I suggest, he can still have Dawson visualize free throws along with his physical practice.
It is a fact that every thing we learn from birth on arises out of feedback from others, I think that it is worth a try to have Dawson watch a film that is edited to only show a his effective free throws.
Interesting material, relevant to basketball.. and to pain.