Take a second to blink. Now do it again. That's the time this athlete has to nail a perfect dive. Not much time to get it right, but more than enough to get it wrong.
Hi, I'm Dr Greg Wells. Olympic divers are explosive competitors with incredible precision. They have to execute a complicated series of twists and somersaults, all while flying towards the pool at 50 km/h! This happens so quickly that medal winning performances are done unconsciously, without even thinking.
And to do that, divers rely upon what's called muscle memory. It all comes down to this: a cauliflower-looking piece of your brain known as the cerebellum. This is where the knowledge on how to perform movements is co-ordinated. Neurons programmed by years of training are set off. They're like a symphony of micro-fireworks, firing into the cerebellum.
But here's the catch. If divers think too much, or if they get distracted while they're in the air, blood flow to the cerebellum is shifted. It starts flowing here instead: to the thinking part of the cerebral cortex. And if that happens, the body forgets its programming, and mistakes are made. Total focus is the key. Because once they lift off, muscle memory kicks in, and they're on autopilot. The difference between winning or losing is just a blink away!