Understanding the Brain (HPER)

In this project, students investigate the brain activity of a tennis player and how the activity is connected to the player’s performance and decision making.

Brain Stimuli and Decision Making

Experiment Goals:

  • Test visual, audio and feel in the decision making process
  • Identify brain activity patterns of the player’s sensory performance
  • Find correlation between sensory stimuli and prediction capabilities

Performance Characteristics and Localization of Brain Function

Experiment Goals:

  • Test the presence of performance characteristics in the decision making process
  • Analyze the performance characteristics using statistical process control
  • Investigate performance outliers when looking at the player’s brain activity

Decision making and Brain Mapping

Experiment Goals:

  • Observe a tennis player match and record his brain activity
  • Analyze the player’s performance when considering his decision making
  • Find correlations between his decisions in the match and his brain activity

The team began looking to understand the processes of decision making within the brain by first mapping the brain while athletes performed thinking and performance tasks. A strong understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the brain as well as the various types of brain waves that are emitted during different tasks is crucial to learning about decision making procedures.

In order to explore the activities of the brain during a decision making process, the research team needed to obtain brain visualization software and design experiments to test the athletes. The team used the EMOTIV Insight device to show real-time representations of the brain and the waves that each lobe produced during decision making. Additionally, the team used Visio, a flowchart software to effectively model the pathways that decisions take within the subjects’ brains. The flowcharts will be invaluable in helping the team develop predictions about the decision making process.

Ideally, the team will find patterns and commonalities within the performance of the brain under certain circumstances and situations. If that is the case, then under certain situations it will be easier to predict what another individual will do if given the proper stimuli. While the team is working with the tennis club to improve the performance of athletes, expanding the research to other applications will potentially have a tremendous impact on other performance improvement ventures in both athletics and everyday life.