(Psychology Today) How Your Brain Can Predict the Future
Christopher Bergland Posted Nov 23, 2018
Cerebellum and basal ganglia collaborate to anticipate timing in life and sport.
As the well-known adage states: “Timing is everything.” Watching Roger Federer serve and volley at lightning-fast speeds and consistently hit the ball in the sweet spot of his tennis racket is awe-inspiring. To spectators, it seems as if Federer has a sixth sense that makes it possible for him to prepare his hand-eye coordination in advance with the clairvoyance of a mind-reader, who can predict exactly where the ball is going to be, milliseconds before it’s actually within swinging distance.
Athletes commonly refer to the importance of anticipatory timing and predicting the future trajectory of a ball or hockey puck in motion. As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is; a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Along this same line, Yogi Berra once said, “You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.” Legendary Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher, Warren Spahn, echoed this sentiment when he said, “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”
But how does the brain “predict the future” and anticipate the precise timing of finely-coordinated muscle movements in advance? New research from the University of California at Berkeley has identified, for the first time, that the brain uses two separate brain regions to predict the future for anticipatory movements.
More specifically, the researchers found that we use the cerebellum and the basal ganglia in concert to calculate the timing of finely-coordinated muscle movements in sports, music, and everyday life. “Together, these brain systems allow us to not just exist in the moment, but to also actively anticipate the future,” senior author Richard Ivry, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist and director of the Cognition and Action Laboratory (CognAc), said in a statement. The Ivry lab focuses on how people from all walks of life learn new skills, select motor functions, and produce coordinated movements.