The field of motor expertise in athletes has recently been receiving increasing levels of investigation. However, there has been less investigation of how dynamic changes in behavior and in neural activity as a result of sporting participation might result in superiority for athletes in domain-general cognition. We used a flanker task to investigate conflict-related behavioral measures, such as mean reaction time (RT) and RT variability, in conjunction with electroencephalographic (EEG) measures, including N2d, theta activity power, and inter-trial phase coherence (ITPC). These measures were compared for 18 badminton players, an interceptive sport requiring the performance of skills in a fast-changing and unpredictable environment, and 18 athletic controls (14 track-and-field athletes and 4 dragon boat athletes), with high fitness levels but no requirement for skills such as responses to their opponents. Results showed that badminton players made faster and less variable responses on the flanker task than athletic controls, regardless of stimulus congruency levels. For EEG measures, both badminton players and athletic controls showed comparable modulations of conflicting on midfrontal N2 and theta power. However, such an effect on ITPC values was found only for the badminton players. The behavior-EEG correlation seen suggests that smaller changes in RT variability induced by conflicting process in badminton players may be attributable to greater stability in the neural processes in these individuals. Because these findings were independent from aerobic fitness levels, it seems such differences are likely due to training-induced adaptations, consistent with the idea of specific transfer from cognitive components involved in sport training to domain-general cognition.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience