"Neural efficiency" of experts' brain during judgment of actions: A high-resolution EEG study in elite and amateur karate athletes

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy.
Behavioural brain research (Impact Factor: 3.39). 11/2009; 207(2):466-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.10.034
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Here we tested two working hypotheses on spatially selective cortical activation ("neural efficiency") in experts: (i) compared to non-athletes, elite karate athletes are characterized by a reduced cortical activation during the judgment of karate actions; (ii) compared to non-athletes and elite karate athletes, amateur karate athletes are characterized by an intermediate cortical activation during the judgment of karate actions. Electroencephalographic (EEG) data were recorded in 16 elite karate athletes, 15 amateur athletes and 17 non-athletes. They observed a series of 120 karate videos. At the end of each video, the subjects had to judge the technical/athletic level of the exercise by a scale from 0 to 10. The mismatch between their judgment and that of the coach indexed the degree of action judgment. The EEG cortical sources were estimated by sLORETA. With reference to a pre-stimulus period, the power decrease of alpha (8-12 Hz) rhythms during the video indexed the cortical activation (event-related desynchronization, ERD). Regarding the hypothesis of reduced activity in elite karate athletes, low- and high-frequency alpha ERD was less pronounced in dorsal and "mirror" pathways in the elite karate athletes than in the non-athletes. Regarding the hypothesis of intermediate cortical activity in amateur karate athletes, low- and high-frequency alpha ERD was less pronounced in dorsal pathways across the non-athletes, the amateur karate athletes, and the elite karate athletes. In conclusion, athletes' judgment of observed sporting actions is related to less pronounced alpha ERD, as a possible index of "neural efficiency" in experts engaged in social cognition.

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Available from: Giulia Rizza, Jul 28, 2015
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    • "Cochin et al. [27] have found stronger alpha band desynchronization in the left hemisphere, mainly over central electrodes and alpha band desynchronization has also been reported to be stronger during the observation of transitive movements [28] [29], and it seems to show gender differences too [30]. On the other hand, there is evidence suggesting that less alpha ERD could be an index of " neural efficiency " in sport experts [31]. Similar patterns of ERD have been described for beta band during AO and modulated by a participant's expertise [24] [26]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Motor imagery (MI) and action observation (AO) are considered effective cognitive tools for motor learning, but little work directly compared their cortical activation correlate in relation with subsequent performance. We compared AO and MI in promoting early learning of a complex four-limb, hand-foot coordination task, using electroencephalographic (EEG) and kinematic analysis. Thirty healthy subjects were randomly assigned into three groups to perform a training period in which AO watched a video of the task, MI had to imagine it, and Control (C) was involved in a distracting computation task. Subjects were then asked to actually perform the motor task with kinematic measurement of error time with respect to the correct motor performance. EEG was recorded during baseline, training and task execution, with task-related power (TRPow) calculation for sensorimotor (alpha and beta) rhythms reactive with respect to rest. During training, the AO group had a stronger alpha desynchronization than the MI and C over frontocentral and bilateral parietal areas. However, during task execution, AO group had greater beta synchronization over bilateral parietal regions than MI and C groups. This beta synchrony furthermore demonstrated the strongest association with kinematic errors, which was also significantly lower in AO than in MI. These data suggest that sensorimotor activation elicited by action observation enhanced motor learning according to motor performance, corresponding to a more efficient activation of cortical resources during task execution. Action observation may be more effective than motor imagery in promoting early learning of a new complex coordination task. Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    Behavioural Brain Research 12/2014; 281. DOI:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.12.016 · 3.39 Impact Factor
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    • "Babiloni et al. (2009) for example found that elite rhythmic gymnasts showed weaker low-and high frequency alpha ERD compared to non-gymnasts in occipital and temporal areas and in the dorsal pathway while observing rhythmic gymnastics videos. A similar study found, that low-and high-frequency alpha ERD was weaker in dorsal and fronto-parietal pathways in elite karate athletes compared to amateurs and non-athletes while watching and judging karate videos (Babiloni et al., 2010). Karate and fencing athletes showed weaker low-frequency alpha ERD at left central, right central, mid-parietal, and right parietal areas and weaker highfrequency alpha ERD at right frontal, left central, right central, and mid-parietal areas during a monopodalic upright standing task compared to non-athletes (Del Percio et al., 2009b). "
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    ABSTRACT: (1) compared with amateurs and young elite, expert table tennis players are characterized by enhanced cortical activation in the motor and fronto-parietal cortex during motor imagery in response to table tennis videos; (2) in elite athletes, world rank points are associated with stronger cortical activation. To this aim, electroencephalographic data were recorded in 14 expert, 15 amateur and 15 young elite right-handed table tennis players. All subjects watched videos of a serve and imagined themselves responding with a specific table tennis stroke. With reference to a baseline period, power decrease/increase of the sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) during the pretask- and task period indexed the cortical activation/deactivation (event-related desynchronization/synchronization, ERD/ERS). Regarding hypothesis (1), 8-10 Hz SMR ERD was stronger in elite athletes than in amateurs with an intermediate ERD in young elite athletes in the motor cortex. Regarding hypothesis (2), there was no correlation between ERD/ERS in the motor cortex and world rank points in elite experts, but a weaker ERD in the fronto-parietal cortex was associated with higher world rank points. These results suggest that motor skill in table tennis is associated with focused excitability of the motor cortex during reaction, movement planning and execution with high attentional demands. Among elite experts, less activation of the fronto-parietal attention network may be necessary to become a world champion.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 10/2014; 8:370. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00370 · 4.16 Impact Factor
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    • "Increased AON activation following action experience may relate to greater engagement of predictive processes (Kilner, Friston, & Frith, 2007) or a richer understanding of the observed actions (Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2010), whereas decreased AON activity following experience may imply more efficient neural processing of familiar actions (Babiloni et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: A recent line of inquiry has examined how an observer’s experience with action changes the neural processing of similar actions when they are subsequently observed. The current study used electroencephalography (EEG) to test the hypothesis that giving participants different types and amounts of experience with specific objects would lead to differential patterns of sensorimotor rhythms during the observation of similar actions on those objects. While EEG was recorded, three groups of participants (n=20 in each group; mean age=22.0 years, SD=2.7) watched video clips of an actor reaching, grasping, and lifting two objects. Participants then received information about differences in weight between the two objects. One group gained this information through extended sensorimotor experience with the objects, a second group received much briefer sensorimotor experience with the objects, and the third group read written information about the objects’ weights. Participants then viewed the action sequences again. For participants who had sensorimotor experience with the objects, the EEG response to viewing the actions was differentially sensitive to the anticipated weight of the objects. We conclude that this sensitivity was based on the participant’s prior sensorimotor experience with the objects. The participants who only received semantic information about the objects showed no such effects. The primary conclusion is that even brief experience with actions affects sensorimotor cortex activity during the subsequent observation of similar actions.
    Neuropsychologia 04/2014; 56. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.02.015 · 3.45 Impact Factor
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