Throwing PhD

Learning to throw for distance and accuracy

Humans are uniquely adapted to perform extremely accurate throws over very long distances (e.g. Roach et al, 2013). However, actually being able to take advantage of these adaptations requires training and experience with the throwing task.

Recent work (e.g. Wilson et al, 2013) has identified the affordances of targets that help throwers select the correct release parameters. This work used elite athletes to assess ideal performance in the task. These data now provide a way to interpret performance as novices learn to throw, e.g. we can assess how the novices alter their behaviour with respect to the identified perfect performance.

This project will involve training novice throwers to hit targets at various distances and locations. We will measure performance using high speed motion tracking camera systems situated in a large space suitable for throwing. We will assess both the release parameters of the throws (release angle, speed and height) in relation to the parameters required to hit the target, and also the efficiency of the throwing action itself using Uncontrolled Manifold analysis. We will manipulate various aspect of the training, including but not limited to the nature of the instructions and feedback given. Finally, we will test the effectiveness of trans-cranical direct current stimulation (tCDS) in improving learning rates. This technique passes a low-level current through cortex and has been shown to facilitate learning by increasing neural plasticity (Davis, 2013).

Experiments will analyse data using Matlab and record motion data using 10 Pro Reflex cameras. You will be trained in movement analysis, programming and experimental techniques in cognitive psychology and sports science, as well as a variety of statistical and analytical techniques. This project would suit a student with a background in motor control or experimental cognitive psychology.

Davis, N. J. (2013). Neurodoping: brain stimulation as a performance-enhancing measure. Sports Medicine, 43(8), 649-653.

Roach, N. T., Venkadesan, M., Rainbow, M. J., & Lieberman, D. E. (2013). Elastic energy storage in the shoulder and the evolution of high-speed throwing in Homo. Nature, 498(7455), 483-486.

Wilson, A., Weightman, A., Zhu, Q., & Bingham, G. (2013). Using dynamical simulations to quantify affordances in the task space for throwing to hit distant targets. Journal of Vision, 13(9), 749-749.

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