Neural bases for anticipation skill in soccer: an fMRI study

The aim of this study was to examine the neural bases for perceptual-cognitive superiority in a soccer anticipation task using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Thirty-nine participants lay in an MRI scanner while performing a video-based task in which they predicted an oncoming opponent’s movements. Video clips were occluded at four time points, and participants were grouped according to in-task performance. Early occlusion reduced prediction accuracy significantly for all participants, as did the opponent’s execution of a deceptive maneuver; however, high-skill participants were significantly more accurate than their low-skill counterparts under deceptive conditions. This perceptual-cognitive superiority was associated with greater activation of cortical and subcortical structures involved in executive function and oculomotor control. The contributions of the present findings to an existing neural model of anticipation in sport are highlighted.