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Neural representations and the cortical body matrix: implications for sports medicine and future directions
  1. Sarah B Wallwork1,
  2. Valeria Bellan1,
  3. Mark J Catley1,
  4. G Lorimer Moseley1,2
  1. 1Sansom Institute for Health Research and PainAdelaide, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  2. 2Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor G Lorimer Moseley, Sansom Institute for Health Research and PainAdelaide, University of South Australia, G.P.O. Box 2471, Adelaide 5001, Australia; lorimer.moseley{at}gmail.com

Abstract

Neural representations, or neurotags, refer to the idea that networks of brain cells, distributed across multiple brain areas, work in synergy to produce outputs. The brain can be considered then, a complex array of neurotags, each influencing and being influenced by each other. The output of some neurotags act on other systems, for example, movement, or on consciousness, for example, pain. This concept of neurotags has sparked a new body of research into pain and rehabilitation. We draw on this research and the concept of a cortical body matrix—a network of representations that subserves the regulation and protection of the body and the space around it—to suggest important implications for rehabilitation of sports injury and for sports performance. Protective behaviours associated with pain have been reinterpreted in light of these conceptual models. With a particular focus on rehabilitation of the injured athlete, this review presents the theoretical underpinnings of the cortical body matrix and its application within the sporting context. Therapeutic approaches based on these ideas are discussed and the efficacy of the most tested approaches is addressed. By integrating current thought in pain and cognitive neuroscience related to sports rehabilitation, recommendations for clinical practice and future research are suggested.

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