It is important to properly identify the
population of athletes for important characteristics that can influence
EEG assessment and training. Factors to consider are motivation,
attention, arousal and cognition. It is imperative that skill level be
identified and verified, amount and quality of experience, as well as
physical fitness level.
Sport Task Specificity
of tasks must be specific to what is needed in that sport and/or
specific skill. For example one does not merely assess attention, but
what type of attention. The attention of a goalie in hockey has to
shift from broad open focus to narrow closed focus depending on where
the puck is at the moment. This is quite different from the fixed
attention required in archery.
Other considerations if laboratory
tasks are to be devised include who controls the signal to begin the
task, is it a consistent or inconsistent probability of occurrence, the
body position (luge athletes had different physiological responses to
imagery depending on whether they were lying on a bed or lying on their
sleds), whether internal timing is necessary and whether the response is
a pre-determined response or one that depends on another person
requiring you to respond to them.
The testing and training
paradigm needs to consider the past and current sport training practice
of the athlete. For example, when recording psycho physiological
measures, including EEG, of wrestlers who were viewing or imaging a
novel throw in wrestling, a significant change in parameters
consistently occurred after 10 trials even through the study had 20
trials. While I thought I had found the limits of learning, the
wrestlers laughed and said they had trained almost every wrestling skill
in drills of 10 for their entire career. They habitually shut off after
10 trials even though the experimenter requested they do 20 trials.
upon 25 years of mental training elite athletes I suggest that the
skill one practices in a practice setting is not the same skill one uses
in competition since the intervening variable of the meaning and
importance of the outcome seriously affect brain processing (attention,
affect, arousal and cognition)and usually affect overt motor and
The setting and
timing of EEG recording and training is also critical. Allen
et.al.(1997) noted changes in baseline EEG by the minute. Our
experience with athletes would suggest that pre-session physical
activity, sleep deprivation, and current mood states are important
factors to be recorded if not controlled.
. Our experience with
swimmers and triathletes found that for some athletes their preferences
for imaging the event were dominant over our instructions even when
they were trying to be compliant with the requests. Thus, manipulation
checks of what the athlete actually did do during the trial are
essential if there is any cognitive demand placed on the subject.
Perhaps pre-performance ERP laboratory
studies would be the most efficacious technique for investigating the
tasks of closed sport skills, such as shooting, golf, and archery.
These sports also lend themselves to being assessed in the practice
setting. The use of laboratory tasks designed specifically for sports,
such as sport specific attentional games, need to be validated against
performance in competition since there may be little correlation between
laboratory tasks and field performance. If at all possible, EEG's
should be taken during real competitive situations.
should establish what athletes, skills and conditions were observed.
Consistency of terminology of what is a "peak'
performance.(pre-determined maximum performance for the competitive
season?), or "elite' performance (high consistency across time ?) or
maximum performance (one time best ever?) would be helpful.
following research questions could be readily investigated .Does delta
indicate when an athlete is paying attention to internal processing
(Harmony, et al, 1996) and is that beneficial or detrimental for
skills, such as a gymnastics events? Can we use the R/L frontal
asymmetry as an indicator of anxiety and determine who may be
predisposed to poorer performance in competition and/or train
individuals to change the asymmetry? Can we identify baseline EEG
profiles that differentiate the various skill levels within the sport?
Is there a different brain signature of elite performers by gender?
envision the future of EEG in sport to include full psycho
physiological assessment of who would make a good athlete (compared to a
data base) , EEG training to enhance task and character requirements
and on-site telemetry evaluation of performance similar to how videos
are now provided players following plays in football. I believe the
training of EEG will be done by the athletes who will use portable
trainers .Computers will integrate all aspects of their performance
into a profile of personal performance including physiological measures
such as strength, biomechanical measures such as segment positioning,
behavioural measures such as the number and quality of repetitions, as
well as psycho physiological measures of how their body is responding in
all of its modalities.
Our new Electronic Toll Road (ETR)
electronically monitors a car entering and leaving the freeway and
calculates the distance by cost and sends you a monthly statement. I am
sure the authorities also know It could also be used to charge you with
speeding and add a fine! One day we may have ETR's in the gym that
telemetrically monitor whether your brain came to the gym with
you(fines?). How about the office- no brain, no pay?
philosophic question then arises. By doing assessment and training with
EEG for the expressed purpose of improving performance, are we not
providing a direction for the meaning of sport? Is this what we want
and what will it cost, in human as well as financial terms?
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Sue is a retired professor of York University, where she taught sport psychology, coaching, and self-regulation courses. Her experience includes Biofeedback and Neurofeedback in a medical center, counseling center, businesses, and in schools. For (more...