Of Soccer, Science, And The Plastic Nature Of The Brain [Video]

Imagine Science Films teams up with a neuroscientist to discuss mind and motion at the 2014 World Cup.


Brazilian neuroscientist Claudia Vargas explains the plastic nature of the brain.Imagine Science Films

The World Cup has drawn more than rabid soccer fans to Brazil. A team of filmmakers are on the ground in Rio de Janeiro documenting the science behind the games, including an exoskeletal kick-off, the genetics of competition, and even the biochemistry of diehard spectators.

Here's Imagine Science Films' take on Header, the latest mini-documentary in their "Field Work: World Cup" series:

Imagine Science Films teams up with neuroscientist Claudia Vargas to discuss mind and motion in Header. Thanks to the brain, players are able to translate their thoughts into action. The first ceremonial kick-of the World Cup was made by a paralyzed teenager wearing a exoskeleton suit. This technology supports the lower body, using brain activity to trigger movements in the suit. How does the brain control our body motion? What happens in our brain/body when this communication is atrophied? Vargas explains that when motor neurons in the brain lose the ability to communicate with muscles, new pathways are forged through a phenomena called neuroplasticity. And, with an accompanying EEG headset, these neural pathways can interface with an artificial skeleton! Not only can the brain control motion of players and exoskeleton suits, but it can anticipate the action of other players on the field. The same neurons fire both when making or observing a winning kick. But, when observing, they fire slightly before the kick is made, allowing players to predict the strategy of their rivals. How much of the game is determined by the mind rather than physical physique?

Watch the film below.

This article was created in partnership with Imagine Science Films. Watch all of the Field Work videos here.