If you’re an athlete, then you might have higher “game intelligence” than 95% of the population. According to a 2012 study, elite athletes are superior problem solvers and creative planners—but luckily, the qualities that contribute to their success are trainable.
What is game intelligence? Coaches have long thought that the best team players have a set of abilities—excellent attention and multitasking, adaptability in new situations, the self-control to inhibit impulses, and an eye for concocting strategies at a moment’s notice—that make them extremely well-suited for sports success.
Scientifically speaking, neuropsychologists have their own term for elite athletes’ game-changing cognitive qualities: executive function. In a study published in the journal PLoS One, researchers measured executive function—and found that the old sports claim was right. What’s more, anyone can improve executive function.
Executive Function and Playing Ability
Researchers from the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm selected a mixed group of Swedish soccer players for this study. Out of 57 male and female players, 29 came from the highest division teams (“elite athletes”) while 28 came from lower division teams (“sub-elites”).
All players took an assessment from the standardized D-KEFS test battery that quantifies creativity and problem solving in time-sensitive situations. Players also took a color-word interference test (play our own version of this test, Color Match) and a trail making test.
Not only did the athletes significantly outperform the general population, but elite athletes also performed 18% better than sub-elites—putting them in the top 5% of scorers.
Executive function: where it happens, how to improve it
Take a deeper dive into the brain, and you’ll see that executive function tasks are an indispensible part of almost every higher-level thought process. When we solve a knotty problem, juggle several tasks, or control our impulses, we usually light up an area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. And in 2011, a Stanford University study by Dr Shelli Kesler found that Lumosity training increased prefrontal cortex activity in children recovering from cancer-related injuries, according to fMRI brain scans.
Executive function isn’t just about cool-headed problem solving, either. Its responsibilities are so broad that it even regulates affairs of the heart. The ability to problem solve, plan, and inhibit certain actions is key to successful emotional regulation. In a 2010 study, Dr Annett Gyurak of Stanford found that Lumosity training (along with other cognitive exercises) helped both normal adults and adults with anxiety disorders master their emotions and think more positively overall.
Whether you’re an athlete, a cancer survivor, a multitasker, or an achiever, executive function is an important part of your life. Train your executive function using the full suite of Lumosity games today—you’ll enhance your cognitive control and accomplish things you’ve never thought possible!
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Executive Functions Predict the Success of Top-Soccer Players - http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0034731