How very long-term (over many years) motor skill training shapes internal motor representation remains poorly understood. We provide valuable evidence that the football brain of Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (the Brasilian footballer) recruits very limited neural resources in the motor-cortical foot regions during foot movements. We scanned his brain activity with a 3-tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while he rotated his right ankle at 1 Hz. We also scanned brain activity when three other age-controlled professional footballers, two top-athlete swimmers and one amateur footballer performed the identical task. A comparison was made between Neymar’s brain activity with that obtained from the others. We found activations in the left medial-wall foot motor regions during the foot movements consistently across all participants. However, the size and intensity of medial-wall activity was smaller in the four professional footballers than in the three other participants, despite no difference in amount of foot movement. Surprisingly, the reduced recruitment of medial-wall foot motor regions became apparent in Neymar. His medial-wall activity was smallest among all participants with absolutely no difference in amount of foot movement. Neymar may efficiently control given foot movements probably by largely conserving motor-cortical neural resources. We discuss this possibility in terms of over-years motor skill training effect, use-dependent plasticity, and efficient motor control.
Keywords: Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, football brain, foot movement, medial-wall motor region, functional magnetic resonance imaging, efficient motor control, long-term physical training
Citation: Naito E and Hirose S (2014) Efficient foot motor control by Neymar’s brain. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:594. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00594
Received: 14 May 2014; Accepted: 16 July 2014;
Published online: 01 August 2014.
Edited by:Sven Bestmann, University College London, UK
Copyright © 2014 Naito and Hirose. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Eiichi Naito, Center for Information and Neural Networks (CiNet), National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, 2A6, 1-4 Yamadaoka, Suita, 565-0871, Japan e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org