Posted on 14/09/2012
Dr Narender Ramnani, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London has been awarded £350,000 to work with elite athletes, children and the elderly to understand skill learning and how skill memories are laid down in the brain.
His study, entitled ‘Cognitive and motor skills: adaption over the lifespan, neural signatures, and transfer from lab to field,’ is one of three UK projects to receive special funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and UK Sport with additional money from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Three leading UK labs will conduct research that will help improve training for elite athletes.
Dr Ramnani’s project will study how thinking and movement become skilled and automatic, how this ability changes during childhood and aging, and the changes that accompany skill learning in the human brain. Dr Ramnani will test the same skills in highly skilled sportspeople, especially elite cricketers. Not only will this will provide vital information about how best to train or retrain people who have lost every day skills due to ageing or disease, but will also improve training methods for elite-level performance.
Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “Understanding how skills are learnt, maintained and change over time is important for athletes trying to push themselves to the limit to achieve sporting success. It is also important for the rest of us as we face the demands of living and working for longer.
"The UK bioscience community has the knowledge and skills to explore some of the major challenges facing high performance sport in the UK and similarly, athletes offer the bioscience community a unique insight into elite physiology which could provide vital clues about increasing healthy lifespan for everyone. So these new projects are a win-win all round.”
Dr Scott Drawer, Head of Research and Innovation at UK Sport added: “The UK is a world leader in science and technology and it is exciting to see this excellence applied to all areas of life including elite sport. Continued research and funding into projects like this allows us to look for those marginal gains that can make such a big difference in world class sport as well as having a wider benefit for the health of the general population.”
In 2009, BBSRC and UK Sport brought together relevant academics and members of the sports and exercise community to identify areas that could benefit from academic research. Two projects were funded in the first Olympic-inspired ‘Elite Performance Highlight’ in 2011 alongside these new projects announced as under the second Elite Performance Highlight.’