Neural correlates of expert visuomotor performance in badminton players

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Bibliographic Details
Title translated into German:Neuronale Korrelate der vissuomotorischen Leistungsfähigkeit von Badmintonspielern
Author:Hülsdünker, Thorben
Gutachter:Mierau, Andreas; Strüder, Heiko Klaus
Published:Köln: 2017, 128 Bl., Lit.
Research institution:Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln / Institut für Bewegungs- und Neurowissenschaft
Notes:Köln, Dt. Sporthochsch., Diss., 2018 (kumulativ)
Format: Publications (Database SPOLIT)
Publication Type: Book
Media type: Print resource
Document Type: Grey literature Doctoral thesis
Online Access:
Identification number:PU201805003261

Author's abstract

Athletes participating in ball and racquet sports at a high level are required to rapidly respond to visual cues in their environment. Although, it is well established that athletes from visuomotor demanding disciplines achieve faster visuomotor reaction times (VMRT) when compared to non-athletes, the underlying neural mechanisms remain largely unknown. Therefore, this series of studies aimed to identify the neural perceptual and motor-related correlates of superior visuomotor reaction performance in athletes. 64 subjects (36 skilled badminton players, 28 controls) participated in a series of experiments. In two studies, a 64-channel EEG-system was used to investigate contrast pattern-reversal (study 1 [n=43]) and motion onset (study 2 [n=53]) visual evoked potentials (VEP) indicating the speed of visual perception in the cortex. For both, contrast and motion stimuli, visuomotor reaction tasks were performed to determine motor-related processes in pre- and supplementary motor regions (Brodmann area 6 [BA6]) and the primary motor cortex (BA4). Further, the latency of initial muscle activation (EMG onset) as well as VMRT was identified. In addition to comparisons between athletes and non-athletes, neural correlates of superior visuomotor reaction performance were also identified within the group of badminton players (study 3 [n=36]). In both studies, badminton players exhibited an earlier EMG onset (study 1: p<0.001; study 2: p<0.001) and a faster VMRT (study 1: p=0.044; study 2: p<0.001). This was accompanied by a significantly earlier activation of pre- and supplementary motor regions (study 1: p=0.015; study 2: p=0.009). In contrast, the athletes' visual perception/processing was faster only for motion (p=0.001) but not contrast (p=0.82) visual stimuli. Multiple regression analyses revealed visual and motor processes contributed to the speed of EMG onset (r=0.83; p<0.001) and VMRT (r=0.77; p<0.001) when responding to visual motion cues. In the group of badminton players (study 3), visual but not motor-related processes contributed to the regression model predicting visuomotor reaction performance (EMG onset: r=0.80; p<0.001; VMRT: r=0.78; p<0.001). In accordance with the visual demands of badminton, athletes exhibited selective modulations in the visual system facilitating the perception and processing of motion but not contrast visual stimuli. In contrast, earlier activation of pre- and supplementary motor regions (BA6) independent of the visual stimulus modality argues for a more general acceleration of visuomotor transformation processes within a multimodal sensorimotor cortical network. The speed of visual and motor processes not only differentiated athletes from non-athletes but was further directly related to visuomotor reaction performance across subjects. However, modulations in the badminton players’ neural function identified in expert-novice comparisons cannot inevitably be considered performance-determining within a group of already skilled athletes. The results emphasize the potential of neuroscientific approaches for athletes and coaches aiming to facilitate visuomotor performance diagnostics and individualize visuomotor training contents. Current follow-up studies transfer the findings of this series of experiments into practice in badminton.