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



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



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.


  • Elite athletes
  • Table tennis
  • EEG
  • Functional brain asymmetry
  • Theta coherence
  • Flow-experience;
  • Psycho-motor performance
Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 0 7071 2977181.

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