Neural markers of performance states in an Olympic athlete: An EEG case study in air-pistol shooting

Di Fronso, Selenia, Robazza, Claudio, Filho, Edson orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8548-4651, Bortoli, Laura, Comani, Silvia and Bertollo, Maurizio (2016) Neural markers of performance states in an Olympic athlete: An EEG case study in air-pistol shooting. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 15 . pp. 214-222. ISSN 1303-2968

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This study focused on identifying the neural markers underlying optimal and suboptimal performance experiences of an elite air-pistol shooter, based on the tenets of the multi-action plan (MAP) model. According to the MAP model’s assumptions, skilled athletes’ cortical patterns are expected to differ among optimal/automatic (Type 1), optimal/controlled (Type 2), suboptimal/controlled (Type 3), and suboptimal/automatic (Type 4) performance experiences. We collected performance (target pistol shots), cognitive-affective (perceived control, accuracy, and hedonic tone), and cortical activity data (32-channel EEG) of an elite shooter. Idiosyncratic descriptive analyses revealed differences in perceived accuracy in regard to optimal and suboptimal performance states. Event-Related Desynchronization/Synchronization analysis supported the notion that optimal-automatic performance experiences (Type 1) were characterized by a global synchronization of cortical arousal associated with the shooting task, whereas suboptimal controlled states (Type 3) were underpinned by high cortical activity levels in the attentional brain network. Results are addressed in the light of the neural efficiency hypothesis and reinvestment theory. Perceptual training recommendations aimed at restoring optimal performance levels are discussed.

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