By Jonathan Ball | BBCNews
Packing an impressive karate punch has more to do with brain power than muscle power, according to research.
In a close-range punching contest described in Cerebral Cortex, experts consistently out-hit novices.
Black belts show structural differences in specific parts of their brains (in white)
Scientists peered deep into the brains of the experts to reveal alterations in regions controlling movement.
These changes were linked with better coordination and speed of punch, a team from Imperial College London and University College London concluded.
Ed Roberts from Imperial College London, who led the study, said: "The karate black belts were able to repeatedly coordinate their punching action with a level of coordination that novices can’t produce. We think that ability might be related to fine tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum."
To determine the speed of the punch, the researchers filmed and timed the movement of the infrared sensors attached to shoulders, elbows, wrists and hips of the people.
The study of brain structure and function has been accelerated by the development of new medical imaging techniques, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
The current study used a special MRI technique called Diffusion Tensor Imaging. This is useful in the investigation of a variety of brain disorders such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, brain abscesses and brain tumors.
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