A new study from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden reports that soccer players have superior executive functions, the brain processes responsible for planning and abstract thinking… the more elite the player, the better these functions.

This ability is called game intelligence, and it is “very, very fundamental to the way we make decisions,” said the study author, neuroscientist Predrag Petrovic. “Its a way of quickly working with information and making decisions about the environment.”  The study measured skills in problem solving, creativity, and rule making.  The highest scorers were from Sweden’s most elite soccer league, followed by players from a lower division.  Nonplayers finished behind both groups of players.  Elite players performed in the top 2 percent when compared with the general population.

So, do athletes acquire these functions over time, or are they inherited?  Dr. Petrovic says that it’s both.  “You can’t become a good player if you don’t have strong executive functions, but at the same time you can always improve executive functions if you train.”  NewYork Times   4/10/12

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