About Me

Grant Hayes

Applying Neuro Performance to ATHLETES

Neuro performance sounds cool right? Sounds flash, we would know, we use the term a lot. But it is really coming out that nobody actually knows what it is. How does the Brain ACTUALLY affect performance? How can we find out whats going on?

Do you realise that presently EVERYONE is spending their time on variations of information that the brain cares about the LEAST? The voluntary movements involved in proprioceptive training alone?

Yes thats right. We call it the 10 Percent. Thats 10 percent of what is important. The other 90 is not assessed, tested or even trained, at the very least not in a targeted accurate way. It is being left to chance and the ONLY reason this is happening is lack of knowledge and understanding in how the BRAIN affects an athletes body and performance.

So we will break it down. Into the parts that matter, what they do and what happens to an athlete when these parts don’t function optimally.

Read on if you are game. Beware the can of worms though.

PMRF

The Ponto Medullary Reticular Formation (PMRF) does the following,

  1. Inhibits pain on the same side of the body. SO the right side of the PMRF inhibits pain on the RIGHT side of the body.

2. Autonomics - Controls Sympathetic activity on the same side of the body. Meaning the heart rate can be increased, blood pressure, sweating, temperature. Basically how jacked you are.

3. Posture -Inhibits the same side anterior (front of the body) muscles above T6 / and it inhibits the posterior (back of the body) muscles below T6

4. Muscle Tone–Works with ipsilateral (same side) cerebellum to set global muscle tone.

So what right? Well take a look below. Issues with the PMRF don’t mean that your brain is broken. It will just show that there is a functionality issue with part of a part of it.

For example, say your issue with your PMRF causes your sympathetics to increase. This means your blood pressure, heart rate and sweating (on one side of your body which is super weird) all increase. Your body is in more of a fight or flight mode or what is sometimes called sympathetic dominance. This is bad news for athletic performance. Your recovery is poor, along with your sleep and your appetite and your digestion. Plus you keep sweating and its gross. In come overtraining symptoms, not to mention the injuries…Read on….

Remember that your brain sets the tone for all your muscles. Like an overprotective mother it decides how much activation you can get before hurting yourself and it always errs on the side of caution. The brain can activate or inhibit how much muscle it likes as it decides what is safest for you. We are wired for survival. Your brain (MOM) knows too much is a risk as well as too little.

 

 

Calm down this does not mean that you suddenly cant use your legs because your brain has freaked out and turned the muscles off. What it means is your muscles are capable of a lot more than the brain will let them do. Its like having a brick under your accelerator.

Having an issue with your PMRF results in not only the brick under the accelerator, but therefore in biomechanical issues too. Remember which muscles it controls? You CAN NOT have optimal neural drive to your muscles if you have an imbalance in the amount of activation and inhibition in order to use them to move, lift, do life. You have jacked sympathetics, poor brain integration and thats when the injuries come. They keep on coming too. Always that same side right? That same foot, knee, hamstring issue that wont go away. How many times have you heard an athlete say “my back is playing up again”

If you identify with some of this and you have felt that frustration with your training just feeling ‘off’, lifts taking a long time to progress, and fatigue that is hard to escape no matter how many green juices you drink, then read on. You HAVE to look at the brain loop.

 

Yes thats the brain loop. We tried to make it as simple as possible in diagram form and the result is that its just not that simple. But if you really want to understand your body then look again and think of it like a map for where the messages need to go. Messages in the brain are how we function. We are only able to function at all because of these messages.

 

 

Other Brain Parts that MATTER

Yes its getting a little heavy now. Your brain is a complex piece of material and all parts matter in the puzzle. Once piece not working effectively just starts to mess up the rest of the system like dominoes.

Cortex (in blue in the diagram)

Frontal Lobe (part of the cortex) and responsible for,

  • Planing and executing movements, pretty vital for athletes
  • Controlling posture
  • Integration of the information coming from the senses (visual and vestibular are what you need to pay attention to here)
  • Decision making — pass or not pass? which way to move? etc
  • Saccadic eye movment — moving the eyes from one object to another — ball to goal, player to player, etc

Parietal Lobe

  • Receives processes & integrates sensory information
  • Awareness of your body in space

Temporal Lobe

  • Main audio system where you interpret & integrate audio data
  • High level visual processing

Occipital Lobe

Primary Visual Cortex

  • Where sight happens. Obviously important.

Now we will mention here that while this is not a lesson on the anatomy of the brain, and it can get pretty complicated, its important to understand that these parts of the brain are always TALKING to each other. So if one has an issue or deficit as we like to say, then the information getting to the next part of the brain is not accurate, then THAT part of the brain can’t feed forward accurate information. Your brain is playing Chinese whispers and you are wondering why you just got hit by that tackle again from that same guy on that same side. Its an issue with the INFORMATION. Of course you can SEE but can your brain get that information from your eyes properly? Thats where it matters.

 

Cerebellum

Here are the 4 MAIN jobs of the Cerebellum

  • Maintenance of Balance and Posture
  • Coordination of Voluntary Movements — movments you decide to do.
  • Motor Learning — learning new movements.
  • Cognitive Functions — thought and understanding.

To make it REALLY simple the Cerellum is responsible for

Accuracy

Balance

Coordination

If you have any deficits in the above areas it will impact your performance MASSIVELY. We can not be more clear about that. If you are an athlete that is under high level coaching and you have a strength guy and a physio and a massage person and a nutritionist and a high performance manager and a sports psychologist and a sports doctor and a guy thats always around that just has ‘heaps of experience’ and a facility and a sponsor and the best gear. SO WHAT if your brain isnt optimal. Literally SO WHAT. If the messages in your brain loops are not optimal then none of the other stuff you have at your disposal matters squat.

Your brain CONTROLS everything. Yet in sports today, everyone loves to debate about deadlifting technique and strapping ankles and whether or not squatting makes people run faster. Thats all great to have, and if you happen to have the best of all the above then thats fantastic. BUT whats your brain doing? Because thats the part that will control the result at the end of the day. Your brain could throw you under the bus UNLESS you understand more how it works and what it needs to get you optimal performance.

IF you have a frontal lobe deficit your eye movements may be inaccurate. Your decision making is poor, your motor output is decreased and your sensory motor integration is sub optimal.

IF your parietal lobe is dysfunctional you may have reoccurring injuries, decreased spatial awareness and decreased motor output.

Its VERY hard to have maximum neural efficency with poor signals between the parietal lobe and frontal lobe.

IF your temporal lobe has a deficit you may struggle with memory issues and audio processing which is a major issue when your sport involves audio starts or commmunication in your sporting arena.

IF your Cerebellum is not optimal this is going to impact your accuracy balance and co-ordination. Yes you need those. You can also struggle with muscular issues within the extensor muscles. You need those as well.

The cerebellum is a major integrator in performance. It accounts for approximately 10% of the brains volume, but contains over 50% of the total number of neurons in the brain. So its smaller but the population of neurons talking to each other is higher. Like a busy city with a lot of traffic. Its a HUB when it comes to athletes.

Have you specifically TRAINED your cerebellum lately? NO, NO you havent.

NOW here is what you wanted to see. What do the injuries look like?

Predisposed conditions due to deficits in the CORTEX and PMRF

  • rotator cuff impingement or tendonitis
  • thoracic outlet syndrome
  • lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • median & ulnar nerve entrapment
  • piriformis syndrome (due to tight glutes)
  • PFPS
  • common peroneal neuropathy
  • plantar fasciitis & bunions
  • medial epicondylitis (golfers elbow)
  • radial nerve entrapments
  • IT syndrome, trochanteric bursitis, hip DJD
  • piriformis syndrome (due to weak glutes)
  • patella — femoral pain syndrome (PFPS)
  • Possible abnormal spinal posture
  • May have RIGHT or LEFT head tilt depending on the side of the deficit
  • May have scoliosis

We are not saying physio and all that other stuff you are doing related to injury does not have its place. BUT what is the CAUSE of the issue and what is the bandaid? Underlying issues that begin in the brain wont go away. Re occuring injuries keep coming back for a reason. You may not have tennis elbow just because you play tennis afterall.

 

 

Basic Motor Control and Postural Pathways.

Take a look at the brainstem below. The Brainstem is made up of the Midbrain, Pons and Medulla.

See how much information is running through there? Its like an airport. Or a motorway. Information (hopefully accurate information) is coming from the Cerebellum, heading through the Thalamus and is relayed to the Motor Cortex.

Now take a look a the nice colorful lines showing the tracts out of the motor cortex. The RED, GREEN, ORANGE, BLUE and YELLOW are the ones nobody is really focusing on when it comes to training. Take a look at the PURPLE one. THIS is the one everybody, probably unknowingly is focused on training.

Equate that to a road in spaghetti junction getting worked on all the time. All the maintenance is on that PURPLE road. The others could have transport issues but because we don’t TEST or CHECK them we wouldnt really know. So we keep working on the PURPLE road hoping to get the result we want. LOOK at the amount of information that we could be missing. This causes issues for people!

Heres a real example. That BLUE line there, thats your vestibular information. How often are you specifically and accurately training your vestibular system directly for your sport? No your not doing that either. NO, NO your not. NOT in a targted and specific fashion. If you think you are, email us, and well be honest with you.

 

 

Visual and Vestibular Gives You SO Much Bang For Your BUCK

That poor negleted blue road of yours could really help you out in your performance. Remember thats your vestibular information. Yes balance. This works very closely with visual information and they are both so vital its rediculous. Remember we are wired for survival right? Your brain REALLY wants your vestibular and visual system to send accurate information in. The problem is they most likely do NOT do that.

Visual and vestibular information ranks very highly in the brain. Imagine the new and improved food pyramid and put vision at the top and vestibular underneath that. Guess where proprioception is? Yes at the bottom. Still important yes of course but visual and vestibular rank higher. So specific vision and vestiubular training is VITAL for athletes who want to get better. Not only because you have been neglecting your BLUE road but also because your brain ranks them so highly that training them might acutally get the brain to take that brick out from under the accelerator. Why? becuase the INFORMATION coming from well trained visual and vestibular systems is more trustworthy. Its accurate, it comes in quicker PLUS the BLUE road is being used more and the associated pathways are stronger.

How does this look in your sport? Well you may win more. You’ll probably find playing your sport is easier, smoother, you’re faster and time seems to slow down a bit. You see things quicker and your balance is better. You might describe it as being ‘in the ZONE’. You’re not in the matrix but you just have more time to process all that information faster because you have been training your brain over and over to process that information so it got better at it.

We are speaking from experience here too. Just know, we have tested hundreds of athletes, a lot at elite level. We’re talking olympics, world champs and top teams. They ALL had visual and vestibular deficits. This is not made up from a combination of YouTube videos on neuroscience and wikipeida articles. This is the real deal. The BRAIN matters.

 

 

Visual Needs

The below are VITAL visual needs for all athletes

  • Gaze stabilisation
  • Visual endurance
  • Fusion/convergernce
  • Ocular motor skills
  • Dynamic visual acuity
  • Eye hand co ordination
  • Saccades
  • Static vs dynamic
  • Depth perception
  • Central/ peripheral awareness
  • Contrast
  • Target size
  • Visual memory
  • Flexibility
  • Visual memory
  • Pursuits
  • Vestibular
  • Vergence
  • Accomodation
  • Eye foot co ordination

Yes that is a lot of visual needs. Yes you might have to somehow fit it all in if you really want to start paying attention to the roads in the brain that matter a lot to your performance.

We understand this may have been a slap in the face for you.

 

 

You were warned about the can of worms. But the take away here is that performance really is about the BRAIN. Thats the governing system. Try to squat without your brain, or pick up your ball, or raquet, or say your name. We get that sounds dramatic but it really is to illustrate that you are nothing without your brain. EVERYTHING is integrated. It needs specific training. ALL roads leading to that spaghetti junctinon and out of it again, need to be well looked after. Those pathways need to be amazing if you want to be amazing. Change the way you think about how your body is achieving all this.

What is it going to take for you to get the brick out from under your accelerator? Your brain is the FOUNDATION for ALL your performance. You cannot shoot a cannon from a canoe.

It is time for high performance in all sports to wake up and smell the neurons.

 

 

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