Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Psychol Res. 2012 Jul;76(4):542-60. doi: 10.1007/s00426-011-0383-y. Epub 2011 Nov 2

Long- and short-term plastic modeling of action prediction abilities in volleyball

Athletes show superior abilities not only in executing complex actions, but also in anticipating others' moves. Here, we explored how visual and motor experiences contribute to forge elite action prediction abilities in volleyball players. Both adult athletes and supporters were more accurate than novices in predicting the fate of volleyball floating services by viewing the initial ball trajectory, while only athletes could base their predictions on body kinematics. Importantly, adolescents assigned to physical practice training improved their ability to predict the fate of the actions by reading body kinematics, while those assigned to the observational practice training improved only in understanding the ball trajectory. The results suggest that physical and observational practice might provide complementary and mutually reinforcing contributions to the superior perceptual abilities of elite athletes. Moreover, direct motor experience is required to establish novel perceptuo-motor representations that are used to predict others' actions ahead of realization.

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