Saturday, April 30, 2022

Thoughts on Schonbrun's Performance Cortex: A great account of how sport is as much about mind as muscle

I enjoyed reading the Performance Cortex by Zach Schonbrun. This book makes an interesting case that athletic performance has as much to do with the mind as with the body and the muscles. The book quotes many famous neuroscientists who argue that the point of the brain is to direct movement and that movement is integral to the brain. It surveys several new companies trying to make "neural" the latest thing in sports, much like sabermetrics, Moneyball, and statistics were the hot thing a decade ago. 

The book also goes through the pioneering work in neuroscience to explain movement, starting with the work of the Cambridge scientist Sherington, who unraveled the mysteries of the spinal cord and reflexes. The book also talks about the importance of how habits are created and how one teaches habits to other parts of the brain than those immediate to consciousness. In particular, it highlights how important it is to chunk and group various movements into an overall, automatic progression. However, it is ironic that many of these things don't have to do with the cortex itself. So in this sense, the book's title is a bit of a misnomer. 

Overall, it is a great book that I would highly recommend.

The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience Is Redefining Athletic Genius 
Hardcover – April 17, 2018
by Zach Schonbrun