The mind of expert motor performance is cool and focused

John Milton, Ana Solodkin, Petr Hluštík, Steven L. Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

216 Scopus citations


Extraordinary motor skills required for expert athletic or music performance require longstanding and intensive practice leading to two critical skills, a level of maximal performance that far exceeds that of non-experts and a degree of privileged focus on motor performance that excludes intrusions. This study of motor planning in expert golfers demonstrated their brain activation during their pre-shot routine to be radically different than in novices. The posterior cingulate, the amygdala-forebrain complex, and the basal ganglia were active only in novices, whereas experts had activation primarily in the superior parietal lobule, the dorsal lateral premotor area, and the occipital area. The fact that these differences are apparent before the golfer swings the club suggests that the disparity between the quality of the performance of novice and expert golfers lies at the level of the organization of neural networks during motor planning. In particular, we suggest that extensive practice over a long period of time leads experts to develop a focused and efficient organization of task-related neural networks, whereas novices have difficulty filtering out irrelevant information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804-813
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Golf
  • Limbic
  • Motor learning
  • Motor planning
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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