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Suppression of left temporal cortical activity mediates improvements in golf putting: A neural signature of expertise in precision sports?

Gallicchio, G and Cooke, A and Ring, C (2016) Suppression of left temporal cortical activity mediates improvements in golf putting: A neural signature of expertise in precision sports? In: British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) Student Conference, March 2016, Bangor, UK. (Unpublished)

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Background and Purpose. The study of electroencephalographic (EEG) activity in precision sports has revealed that oscillatory activity within the upper-alpha frequency (10-12 Hz) recorded in the last seconds preceding skill execution can distinguish experts from novices. The power of these oscillations provides an index of neuronal suppression by a thalamic mechanism that gates resources to task-related and away from task-unrelated cortical areas. Our study employed a test-retest training paradigm to examine changes in cortical alpha activity and performance.
Method. Twelve right-handed experienced golfers (age: M = 21) underwent three 1-hour putting training sessions, sandwiched between a test and retest session, during which they putted 50 balls to a standard hole at a distance of 2.4 m. Outcome (number of holed putts) and performance (radial, angle, and length errors) measures were recorded in both sessions. EEG upper-alpha power was measured from 32 scalp electrodes before (-3 s) and after (+1 s) initiation of the backswing.
Results. The change in outcome and performance measures indicated that participants improved across sessions (e.g., holed putts: 12.17 during test, 16.25 during retest, P = .05). Among the performance measures, angle error was the best correlate of putting outcome during both test (r = -0.92, P < .001) and retest (r = -0.89, P < .001). The improvement in performance across sessions was fully mediated by the reduction of angle (P = .008) and radial (P = .06), but not length error. A topographical analysis of the EEG revealed that upper-alpha power was lowest in central areas and highest in temporal-occipital areas (P < .001). The improvements in putting outcome (P = .02) and angle error (P = .03) across sessions were partially mediated by higher power in the left temporal area in the last second preceding backswing initiation.
Conclusion. The present findings confirm that improvements in putting outcome are largely attributable to decreases in putter head angle at impact. The topographical pattern displayed by preparatory upper-alpha power is consistent with the gating of resources to central sensorimotor areas and away from temporal and occipital areas. Importantly, increased inhibition of cognitive (e.g., language) processes performed in the left temporal cortex partially accounted for improved putting outcome and performance. Finally, data on self-reported measures (e.g., conscious processing) as well as limitations and further directions will be presented and discussed in relation to alpha gating.

Type of Work:Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Department:School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences
Date:March 2016
Series/Collection Name:British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) Student Conference
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QP Physiology
Funders:Economic and Social Research Council (grants RES-000-22-4523 and ES/J50001X/1)
ID Code:3095

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