London, Aug 12 : A team of neuroscientists from the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, have shown that professional basketball players can predict whether a shot would get through the basket or clang off the rim, just by reading the flick of the hand.
In the study over 10 Italian league players, the team found that they proved much better and quicker at calling shots, compared to experienced basketball watchers and novices.
The participants in the study were shown videos of free throw shots, variously missed and made.
The shots were even frozen at various stages - before the ball left a player's hand, to the instant before it reached the basket.
The coaches and experienced basketball journalists were also shown the same footage, as did as novices.
The researchers found that less than half a second into the shot, as the player still cradled the ball, the professional basketball players could predict whether the shot would go 'in' or 'out' quite rightly.
However, coaches, journalists, and novices guessed correctly only after the ball left the player's fingers.
The researchers further measured the activity in the brain regions controlling two arm muscles.
They found that the players relied on a circuit that harnesses the abductor digiti minimi - the hand's main muscle.
"When you get experience, you predict the future of an action by looking at the body," New Scientist magazine quoted him as saying.
Aglioti believes that professionals can read the spin imparted on the ball by focusing on the flick of the pinkie.