Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Cereb Cortex. 2013 Nov;23(11):2765-78. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs279. Epub 2012 Aug 31

Fooling the kickers but not the goalkeepers: behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of fake action detection in soccer

Studies demonstrate that elite athletes are able to extract kinematic information of observed domain-specific actions to predict their future course. Little is known, however, on the perceptuo-motor processes and neural correlates of the athletes' ability to predict fooling actions. Combining psychophysics and transcranial magnetic stimulation, we explored the impact of motor and perceptual expertise on the ability to predict the fate of observed actual or fake soccer penalty kicks. We manipulated the congruence between the model's body kinematics and the subsequent ball trajectory and investigated the prediction performance and cortico-spinal reactivity of expert kickers, goalkeepers, and novices. Kickers and goalkeepers outperformed novices by anticipating the actual kick direction from the model's initial body movements. However, kickers were more often fooled than goalkeepers and novices in cases of incongruent actions. Congruent and incongruent actions engendered a comparable facilitation of kickers' lower limb motor representation, but their neurophysiological response was correlated with their greater susceptibility to be fooled. Moreover, when compared with actual actions, motor facilitation for incongruent actions was lower among goalkeepers and higher among novices. Thus, responding to fooling actions requires updation of simulative motor representations of others' actions and is facilitated by visual rather than by motor expertise.

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