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Effectively embodied tattoos?

By David Butler Science and the world 30 Dec 2013

About 2 years ago, I wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek article suggesting that one element of the performance decline of the Australian cricket team could be the new tattoos on two key players – Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson. The suggestion was that the altered inputs into the schema (neurosignatures) of the tattooed body part may have been enough to create a sensory motor incongruence leading to perturbed motor outputs. Even minor incongruence  may lead to significantly altered performance outputs in an athlete dealing with a cricket ball travelling at 150Kph.

I have been proven so wrong (again!) Clarke and Johnson have been magnificent in the recent Australia vs England Ashes series. Clarke is clearly Australia’s best run maker if not the world’s best at the moment and Johnson’s bowling has been superb, at times unplayable and a major factor in the current Australian dominance of England.

In the original Noinotes, I also made the comment that the current state of happiness with a tattoo may reflect on the sports performance at that moment. I also suggested that a much loved and integrated tattoo may even enhance the finery of the representation of the limb in the brain and even improve motor outputs.

Perhaps the second suggestion is correct – maybe it took a while for Clarke and Johnson to effectively embody the tattoos, maybe you have to look at it for a long time and use it in as many contexts as possible to get the best embodiment. Maybe your team mates, friends and family have to get used to it as well? But maybe tattoos have nothing to do with sports performance?  Either way, Australians are enjoying and relishing this unexpected dominance over the old foes!

-David Butler


  1. Altering the skin with a tattoo is nothing new in the US. Basketball, arguably a sport requiring a ridiculous amount of skill, wouldn’t be the same without them. Last I heard, high school players have to hide them beneath tape. What do you suppose that implies?

    1. timcocks0noi

      Hi Barrett
      I don’t know anything about the culture behind high school basketball in the US, but hazarding a (wild?) guess, it seems to me that there would be themes of identity, self expression and rebellion, but also belonging and even perhaps tribalism behind permanently altering one’s outward appearance.

      Requiring students to cover tattoos up with tape strikes me as an attempt to regain power, but maybe something deeper, akin to shame?
      My best

  2. davidboltononoi

    Isn’t it like “Love”….., after the initial cascade of thoughts feelings and emotions the brain takes it’s time to form a “Meaningful” relationship. Be it, for the brain adaptive or maladaptive. My last divorce highlighted a maladaptive relationship………..yet another aspect to lend awareness to in our clinical reasoning, both for the patient AND the practitioner …….by the way well done Australia for your magnificent achievement……….We have to let you win occasionally……..

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