We examined the effect of expertise on cortical activation during sports anticipation using functional MRI. In experiment 1, recreational players predicted badminton stroke direction and the pattern of active clusters was consistent with a proposed perception-of-action network. This pattern was not replicated in a stimulus-matched, action-unrelated control task. In experiment 2, players of three different skill levels anticipated stroke direction from clips occluded either 160 ms before or 80 ms after racquet-shuttle contact. Early-occluded sequences produced more activation than late-occluded sequences overall, in most cortical regions of interest, but experts showed an additional enhancement in medial, dorsolateral and ventrolateral frontal cortex. Anticipation in open-skill sports engages cortical areas integral to observing and understanding others' actions; such activity is enhanced in experts.
aCentre for Cognition and Neuroimaging
bCentre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK
cInstitute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China
Correspondence to Michael J. Wright, PhD, Department of Psychology, Brunel University, Cleveland Road, Uxbridge, London UB8 3PH, UK
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Received 28 August 2009 accepted 5 October 2009