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Scientists have concluded that the brain responds extremely well to scenarios involving mental visualization, and on more than just one level. The psycho-neuromuscular theory explains how imagery strengthens the neural pathways for certain movements. When an athlete imagines performing a particular sport skill, his muscles fire in the same sequence they would if he were actually performing the skill. The use of imagery may also function as a coding system in the brain, helping to facilitate the development of a plan or “mental blueprint”. The symbolic learning theory delves into how imagery strengthens this mental blueprint, enabling the actions/movements to become more familiar or potentially automatic.

The bio-informational theory explains how imagery involves the activation of a network of coded stimulus and response propositions which get stored in long- term memory. An example of this is the texture and feel of a basketball in one’s hand, paired with the fluid motion associated with a free throw. Recent research has focused on the effectiveness of imagery as an important self-regulation skill, the key to which is the programming of one’s mind, muscles, and emotions for success, and making the imagery as vivid, realistic, and detailed as possible. When an athlete can clearly imagine himself preparing for competition, the central nervous system becomes programmed for success. In the final analysis, it as if the activity being visualized has already happened…a “dress rehearsal” for optimal performance.

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