Neuroscience Meets Exercise/Sports Science

Recently, while posting training videos on Facebook, I discovered The Society for Neurosports. I am excited about this! From the website “The Neurosports Mission Statement The Society for NeuroSports is the only non-profit academic society dedicated to promoting the integration of neuroscience with exercise & sport science…The [Society for] Neurosports is the world’s leader in providing science-based sports neuroscience information.”

Too often, discussions on exercise leave out the importance of the central nervous system (CNS, brain and spinal cord) . Discussions of the brain’s complex signaling and variations in brain usage as one goes through different stages of learning motor skills is often barely mentioned, or not mentioned at all. All exercise involves the CNS. I suspect The Society for Neurosports will be a key player in bringing an understanding of the central nervous system’s role in exercise and sport to the public, and to professional working in related fields.

The following interview was conducted with the Dr. Jaime Tartar, President of  The Society for Neurosports

How is the Society For Neurosports different than other exercise societies, groups or organizations?

This is the only current academic Society for the Field of Sports Neuroscience. It is also an interdisciplinary society.  For example, at the first NeuroSports conference last year we had attendees and presenters from a range of field (e.g. sports psychology, neuroscience psychology, nutrition, exercise science, physical therapy) all together to share their common interest int this field. All to often, academic disciplines become siloed and conferences are specialized. We hope the Society for NeuroSports allows for interdisciplinary collaboration and learning.

What type of information can readers expect to see in the Journal of the Society for NeuroSports (JSNS)?

In keeping with our goal of being interdisciplinary, the JSNS will accept articles that communicate research findings in brain behavior relationships in exercise, sports, or related wellness.  For example, everything from molecular studies on hypothalamic regulation of nutrition during training to clinical interventions in TBI.

Currently, what are your primary research interests? What are some practical applications regarding your research?

Stress: mechanisms and consequences of chronic and acute stress.

Sleep: consequences of sleep loss on health

Emotion: mechanisms by which state changes in emotion can influence cognitive processes.

Sports Neuroscience: The relationship between exercise and sports activities and brain health.

What excites me about the research I do is that these major research topics all influence each       other. If someone is experiencing sleep restriction, this will impact their mood and can disrupt stress hormones.  In addition, it will also impair cognitive and motor learning and performance. I hope that the research finding from my lab and collaborations can lead to an overall better understanding of human wellness and performance.

Can you recommend sources for our readers interested in learning more about the interface between neuroscience and exercise science?

There are some cool armchair books that I love!

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain  by John J. Ratey

The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience Is Redefining Athletic Genius by Zach Schonbrun

Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization by John J. Ratey and Richard Manning

Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain by Allison Brager (Dr. Brager is on our advisory board)

This is also a good more academic book: Handbook of Sport Neuroscience and Psychophysiology by Roland Carlstedt

What is a typical day like for you? What is your typical schedule from the time you get out of the bed until bedtime?

I HATE waking up – worst part of the day 3/10!

I like to sing some fun song (like Sabotage by the Beastie Boys) in the hallway because I have convinced myself my colleagues like it (they don’t).

Most of my days are full of a combination of giving lecture, meeting with students, testing participants, and working in the lab.  My biggest challenge is carving out time to write. I like to write in the morning if I can get in early because my brain works better early in the am! The biggest challenge is there are like 1,463 people who stop in my office. It’s usually insane and hectic at work but I imagine I must like it because I keep coming back!

The it’s to the gym- I go to Orange Theory because after work I don’t’ want to think and there are coaches there so you can just disconnect and follow along.  I think I also like having a coach when I work out. I am a lazy independent worker outer.

Then home to cook dinner for my hubby and twins who don’t stop eating (who will be 14 in May 17th). My goal is to turn off my phone at 10:00 and try to re-center to do it all again the next day!

Thanks for taking time to do the interview

Stress And The Brain: Jaime Tartar at TEDxNSU

It is important to point out all exercise involves vast amounts of neural activity. I avoid using the term neural training to refer to a specific training regimen. Neural involvement changes as learning progresses, and simple movements involve less neural activation than complex movements (movements with more degrees of freedom and more interactions). Novel and routine motor skills have different requirements.

“From one point of view, we can consider the entire nervous system to be the motor system: it functions to move the body” (Full reference available upon requestKolb & Whishaw, 2009, p.223). Consider a seemingly simple task, such as locating a db, and picking it up to perform curls. The visual system inspects the db in an effort to determine where to grab db (involving occipital lobe’s visual cortex and frontal lob motor areas- distinct areas). Instructions are sent (via motor neurons) to part of spinal cord involved with controlling muscles involved with arm, hand and any others having role in the movement. Once grabbed sensory receptors involved with info receiving sensory stimuli, send signals to primary sensory cortex, (in parietal lobe). Sensory cortex transfers signals to the motor cortex, relevant to awareness that the db is now being held. The basal ganglia assists in applying appropriate amount of force, and cerebellum participates in regulation of timing and adjustment of movement errors, as the movement is taking place. Some training regimens activate nervous system more than others, but referring a single sort of regimen as neural can lead to a misconception regarding the nervous system’s role in movement. In terms of neuroscience, the motor system is often a term describing elements of the nervous system most directly involved with movement, and for circuits of the spinal cord that issue commands to muscle through peripheral nerves.

Society for Neurosports

Jaime Tartar: Faculty Page

Jamie Hale