Photo montage of phenom athletes Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Serna Williams and Michelle Wie.
Photo montage of phenom athletes Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Serna Williams and Michelle Wie.

Making a Phenom – The Mind

Image Credit (Clockwise from top): Michael Jordan: Unknown author / Public domain; Lionel Messi: L.F.Salas / CC BY (; Serena Williams: Hanson K Joseph / CC BY-SA (; Michelle Wie: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA / CC BY-SA (
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About This Episode

On this episode of StarTalk Sports Edition, we’re continuing our ‘Making a Phenom’ mini-series with episode two: The Mind. In the first episode of our series we explored genetics with author and science writer David Epstein and AxGen Co-Founder Stuart Kim, PhD. In this episode, it’s all about the brain. 

In our first segment, host Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice are joined by neuroscientist Heather Berlin, PhD. What does the brain of a superstar athlete look like? Heather tells us what we would find if we probed the mind of an elite athlete. We explore the importance of decision-making and being able to predict what your opponent will do. Does your brain know what you’re going to do before you know it? Discover more about the evolution of consciousness. We discuss why being an elite athlete can cause depression. 

Next, Joan Vickers, PhD, kinesiologist and author of Perception, Cognition, and Decision Training: The Quiet Eye in Action, drops in to help us understand what elite athletes really see while their playing their sport. Find out more about the “quiet eye.” Joan tells us about her research and “perception-action coupling.” She also tells us how elite athletes can “predict the future.” Can quiet eye training help get an athlete out of a slump? Neil shares his affinity for kinesiology. 

Heather is back for our final segment as we ponder the future partnership of neuroscientists and professional sports teams. What can cause bigger issues for a rising star athlete: fame or money? You’ll learn why certain personality tests can help us predict how players will react to sudden fame. In order for a team to succeed, does everyone need to get along? Neil reminisces on the 1978 New York Yankees. Lastly, we investigate the history of neuroscience. All that, plus, Heather explains why we’ll need a bit more time to fully understand the mysteries of the brain. 

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons and All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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