Vicarious Play: Watching football requires similar mental activities to playing it.

Gridiron fans aren’t normally considered Mensa material, but becoming immersed in a game of football provides plenty of mental stimulation.

When a fan watches a game, as one University of Chicago study showed, the same areas of the brain are activated as would be if that person were playing.

This engages new neural networks that link language comprehension with experiences in our environment through a process some, including sports and cognitive science writer Dan Peterson, have called embodied cognition. With these new neural networks, the act of watching a game can actually increase brain function.

This, of course, raises a number of questions. Do these neural benefits negate the damage done by the beer I drink during the game? Does watching Tom Brady get sacked again and again at crucial moments do harm to my intelligence? Are Tennessee Vols fans factually less smart than the rest of us, because their team is always losing?


-Jason Johnson

[via Forbes]