Catching on it early: bodily and brain anticipatory mechanisms for excellence in sport

Ana M. Abreu, Matteo Candidi, Salvatore M. Aglioti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Programming and executing a subsequent move is inherently linked to the ability to anticipate the actions of others when interacting. Such fundamental social ability is particularly important in sport. Here, we discuss the possible mechanisms behind the highly sophisticated anticipation skills that characterize experts. We contend that prediction in sports might rely on a finely tuned perceptual system that endows experts with a fast, partially unconscious, pickup of relevant cues. Furthermore, we discuss the role of the multimodal, perceptuomotor, multiple-duty cells (mirror neurons) that play an important function in action anticipation by means of an inner motor simulation process. Finally, we suggest the role of predictive coding, interoception, and the enteric nervous system as the processual and biological support for intuition and “gut feelings” in sports—the missing link that might explain outstanding expert performance based on action anticipation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProgress in brain research
PublisherElsevier Science B.V.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780128118252
ISBN (Print)9780128118269
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProgress in Brain Research
ISSN (Print)0079-6123
ISSN (Electronic)1875-7855


  • Action anticipation
  • Action observation network
  • Enteric nervous system
  • Expertise
  • Intention reading
  • Interoception
  • Mirror properties
  • Motor simulation
  • Neuroscience of sport
  • Predictive coding


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