Motor skill failure or flow-experience? Functional brain asymmetry and brain connectivity in elite and amateur table tennis players

Highlights

 

Psycho-motor performance in table tennis is characterized by functional hemispheric asymmetry

Elite expert table tennis players show stronger cortico-cortical communication between right-temporal and premotor areas compared to amateurs

Less desynchronized brain activity at the left hemisphere predicts world rank points and flow-experience in expert table tennis players

The results might be a basis to develop a neuro-feedback training protocol to enhance flow-experience and performance in elite table tennis athletes

 


Abstract

Functional hemispheric asymmetry is assumed to constitute one underlying neurophysiological mechanism of flow-experience and skilled psycho-motor performance in table tennis athletes. We hypothesized that when initiating motor execution during motor imagery, elite table tennis players show higher right- than left-hemispheric temporal activity and stronger right temporal-premotor than left temporal-premotor theta coherence compared to amateurs. We additionally investigated, whether less pronounced left temporal cortical activity is associated with more world rank points and more flow-experience. To this aim, electroencephalographic data were recorded in 14 experts and 15 amateur table tennis players. Subjects watched videos of an opponent serving a ball and were instructed to imagine themselves responding with a specific table tennis stroke. Alpha asymmetry scores were calculated by subtracting left from right hemispheric 8–13 Hz alpha power. 4–7 Hz theta coherence was calculated between temporal (T3/T4) and premotor (Fz) cortex. Experts showed a significantly stronger shift towards lower relative left-temporal brain activity compared to amateurs and a significantly stronger right temporal-premotor coherence than amateurs. The shift towards lower relative left-temporal brain activity in experts was associated with more flow-experience and lower relative left temporal activity was correlated with more world rank points. The present findings suggest that skilled psycho-motor performance in elite table tennis players reflect less desynchronized brain activity at the left hemisphere and more coherent brain activity between fronto-temporal and premotor oscillations at the right hemisphere. This pattern probably reflect less interference of irrelevant communication of verbal–analytical with motor-control mechanisms which implies flow-experience and predict world rank in experts.

Keywords

  • Elite athletes
  • Table tennis
  • EEG
  • Functional brain asymmetry
  • Theta coherence
  • Flow-experience;
  • Psycho-motor performance
Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 0 7071 2977181.
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This work is part of the Ph.D. thesis of Sebastian Wolf that has been published in German 2013 online at the publication server of the University of Tuebingen (TOBIAS-lib)


Autor / Fonte:Sebastian Wolf, Ellen Brölz, Philipp M Keune, Benjamin Wesa, Martin Hautzinger, Niels Birbaumer, Ute Strehl Biological Psychology 2015 January 20
Link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051115000174