Article

Neurofeedback for Peak Performance Training

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Abstract

Neurofeedback has been found to be effective in the treatment of a number of clinical disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD) (Lubar, 2003), obsessive-compulsive disorder (Hammond, 2003), seizures (Sterman, 2000), and substance abuse (Burkett, Cummins, Dickson, & Skolnick, 2005; Saxby & Peniston, 1995). The benefits of neurofeedback have also been found useful in peak performance training. These benefits include improving attention/concentration, imagery, arousal level, and decreasing worry and rumination (Williams, 2006). The combination of cognitive, emotional, and psychophysiological benefits from neurofeedback results in improved performance. Due to individual differences in brain activity, as well as the large diversity of skills required in different sports, neurofeedback for performance training is not a “one size fits all” approach (Wilson, Thompson, Thompson, & Peper, 2011). In order to obtain optimal results, neurofeedback for peak performance training begins with appropriate assessment and evaluation of an individual's brain wave (electroencephalographic) activity. Individualized training plans are based upon the assessment findings and the specific needs of the targeted sport or activity (Wilson et al., 2011). This article will discuss the benefits and applications of neurofeedback for peak performance training and the importance of assessment to create effective training programs.

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... Further, in the present study we used an action video-game skill to simulate an open environment skill, as previous research has been focused on closed environment and self-paced skills (Bertollo et al., 2020;Hatfield, 2018;Vickers & Williams, 2017). Therefore, our main aim was to examine whether practice of an open skill video-game task would lead to changes in theta, alpha, and beta power, as there is consensus that optimal performance in motor tasks is a multidimensional phenomenon manifested in different brain rhythms (see Cheron et al., 2016;Milton et al., 2007;Pacheco, 2016). Congruent with the aforementioned evidence supporting the neural proficiency hypothesis, we expected to observe a complex pattern of results, highlighted by both increases and decreases in brain rhythms across the scalp from pre-to post-test. ...
... Suppressing task-irrelevant information is essential in open skill environments, wherein performers must be able to attend to the right cues at the right time so to make accurate decisions (Tenenbaum et al., 2013). More generally, increased alpha activity in the cortex has been associated with a relaxed mental state which, in turn, is linked to optimal rather than sub-optimal performance Cheron et al., 2016;Hatfield, 2018Hatfield, , 2020Pacheco 2016). ...
... From an applied standpoint, findings of this research echo the notion that neurofeedback training must be tailored to the specific task, context, and individual performer (Pacheco, 2016). More specifically, our findings suggest that skilled execution of a video gaming motor task is associated with the activation of specific brain networks. ...
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We examined whether practice in an open skill video-game task would lead to changes in performance, attention, motivation, perceived effort, and theta, alpha, and beta waves. Specifically, we were interested on whether potential performance gains from practice would be primarily explained by the neural efficiency (i.e., cortical idling) or the neural proficiency hypothesis (i.e., mix of heightened and reduced activation across the cortex). To this end, we asked 16 novice participants (8 males and 8 females; Mage = 23.13 years) to play a Nintendo Wii video-game shooting task, namely Link’s Crossbow Training. Pre-test scores, which were followed by an acquisition phase, were compared to post-test scores. Performance and subjective data were recorded for each trial and EEG data was continuously recorded using the portable EEGO System. Our findings revealed that performance increased while attention decreased at post-test, thereby confirming that practice leads to performance gains and reduces attentional overload. No changes in motivation or perceived effort were observed, perhaps because effort is a gestalt multidimension construct and video-gaming is an inherently motivating activity. EEG frequency analysis revealed that, for the most part, performance gains were accompanied by increased cortical activity across frequencies bands, thus lending primary support to the neural proficiency hypothesis. Accordingly, neurofeedback interventions to aid motor learning should teach performers not only how to silence their brains (i.e., quiescence state linked to automaticity and “flow”) but also how to amplify task-relevant brain networks.
... Relevant to the present study, these characteristics of optimal Communicated by Bill J Yates. performance are thought to be underpinned by neural mechanisms (Holmes and Wrigh, 2017;Pacheco 2016;Yarrow et al. 2009). ...
... For difficult tasks, they observed that individuals needed to recruit more cortical resources to perform at an optimal level. Moreover, recent empirical studies revealed that increased theta activity in the frontal lobe, a marker of "brain busy-ness" (see Pacheco 2016), underpins optimal performance experiences in both motor and cognitive tasks Katahira et al. 2018). In light of this emerging evidence, scholars have recently proposed the neural proficiency hypothesis (Bertollo et al. , 2020. ...
... Second, EEG is one of the most commonly used brain-imaging methods in sports because of its portability and high ecological validity (Holmes and Wright 2017;Yarrow et al. 2009). Third, EEG power frequency spectrum analysis is very relevant to inform applied neurofeedback interventions aiming to increase the probability of optimal performance experiences (Pacheco 2016;Strack et al. 2011;Xiang et al. 2018). To this extent, there is consensus that optimal performance experiences in sports are a multidimensional phenomenon indexed in the brain by different brain rhythms, particularly alpha (relaxation), beta (sensory-motor integration) and theta (focused attention) waves (Cheron et al. 2016;Pacheco 2016). ...
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We examined changes in brain rhythms in relation to optimal performance in self-paced sports. Eight studies met the inclusion/exclusion criteria, representing 153 participants and eight different sports. We found that (a) optimal performance is characterised by increased alpha (g = .62, p = .02) and theta (g = .74, p = .002) across the cortex; (b) during optimal performance the frontal lobe is more relaxed (higher alpha; g = 1.06, p = .18) and less busy (lower theta; g = .38, p = .08), in comparison to the other brain lobes; (c) for the same given task, experts’ brains are more relaxed (higher alpha, g = .89, p = .34) and less busy (lower theta, g = .91, p = .54) than novices’ brains. Theoretically, our findings suggest that neural efficiency, neural proficiency, and transient hypofrontality are likely complementary neural mechanisms that underpin optimal performance. In practice, neurofeedback training should teach athletes how to amplify and suppress their alpha and theta activity across the brain during all movement stages.
... Thus, examining the EEG power frequency spectrum would advance knowledge of the neural correlates that underpin performance while also providing important information for applied neuro-feedback interventions (Pacheco, 2016;Xiang et al., 2018) and neuromodulatory strategies aimed at increasing the probability of optimal performance experiences (Morya et al., 2019;Moreira et al., 2021a). Therefore, adopting the qEEG index ratio between slower and faster frequencies such as the Delta Alpha Ratio (DAR), the Power Ratio Index (PRI; delta + theta/alpha + beta), and the Theta/Beta Ratio (TBR) (Brito et al., 2021) would advance this knowledge in elite athletes. ...
... In this sense, it should be highlighted that recent studies have reported an increased theta activity in the frontal lobe under-pinning optimal performance experiences in motor and cognitive tasks Katahira et al., 2018) and proposed that this increase in theta activity is considered a marker of "brain busyness" (Pacheco, 2016). Furthermore, Bertollo et al. (2016) proposed an alternative framework for the neural efficiency hypothesis, which has been called the neural proficiency hypothesis. ...
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Differentiated brain activation in high-performance athletes supports neuronal mechanisms relevant to sports performance. Preparation for the motor action involves cortical and sub-cortical regions that can be non-invasively modulated by electrical current stimulation. This study aimed to investigate the effect of high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) on electrical brain activity in professional female basketball players during free-throw shooting. Successful free-throw shooting (n = 2,361) from seven professional female basketball players was analyzed during two experimental conditions (HD-tDCS cathodic and sham) separated by 72 h. Three spectral bio-markers, Power Ratio Index (PRI), Delta Alpha Ratio (DAR), and Theta Beta Ratio (TBR) were measured (electroencephalography [EEG] Brain Products). Multi-channel HD-tDCS was applied for 20 min, considering current location and intensity for cathodic stimulation: FCC1h, AFF5h, AFF1h (−0.5 mA each), and FCC5h (ground). The within EEG analyses (pre and post HD-tDCS) of frontal channels (Fp1, Fp2, F3, F4, FC1, FC3) for 1 second epoch pre-shooting, showed increases in PRI (p < 0.001) and DAR (p < 0.001) for HD-tDCS cathodic condition, and in TBR for both conditions (cathodic, p = 0.01; sham, p = 0.002). Sub-group analysis divided the sample into less (n = 3; LSG) and more (n = 4; MSG) stable free-throw-shooting performers and revealed that increases in pre to post HD-tDCS in PRI only occurred for the LSG. These results suggest that the effect of HD-tDCS may induce changes in slow frontal frequency brain activities and that this alteration seems to be greater for players demonstrating a less stable free-throw shooting performance.
... In Game 3, we also observed a global increase in alpha activity and decrease in beta cortical activity, which are indicative of less brain "busy-ness" and skilled motor performance, akin to the neural efficiency hypothesis (see Bertollo et al. 2016;Grabner et al. 2006;Pacheco 2016). In this regard, previous research suggests that peaks of alpha activity (more relaxation) and less beta power (increased automaticity) are observed across the whole brain as individuals become more proficient in a given task and/or are subjected to less work overload Pacheco 2016). ...
... In Game 3, we also observed a global increase in alpha activity and decrease in beta cortical activity, which are indicative of less brain "busy-ness" and skilled motor performance, akin to the neural efficiency hypothesis (see Bertollo et al. 2016;Grabner et al. 2006;Pacheco 2016). In this regard, previous research suggests that peaks of alpha activity (more relaxation) and less beta power (increased automaticity) are observed across the whole brain as individuals become more proficient in a given task and/or are subjected to less work overload Pacheco 2016). We also observed large increases of theta power activity across the whole brain from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3, further suggesting that more focused attention is needed over time likely because teammates develop task and team-related knowledge (Cooke et al. 2000;Filho and Rettig 2018;Filho and Tenenbaum 2020;Mohammed et al. 2010Mohammed et al. , 2017, which form the basis for team coordination. ...
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... Objective psychophysiological data monitoring is particularly relevant to the design and implementation of biofeedback interventions to improve performance and well-being in sport settings (Filho, 2015). In this regard, extant previous research has suggested that biofeedback and neurofeedback interventions targeting different body channels (e.g., brain waves, heart rate [HR] variability) are effective for performance enhancement in sports (for reviews see Morgan & Mora, 2017;Pacheco, 2016;Xiang et al., 2018). ...
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Putting is paramount to performance in golf and differentiates low and high achievers in the sport. In the present study, we compared the heart rate, respiration rate, and galvanic skin response for missed and holed putts performed by 13 skilled male golfers from a 12-ft (3.65-m) distance. Contrary to our expectations, no significant effects were observed for heart rate and respiration rate, likely because skilled athletes (a) engage in preperformance routines and are able to control their breathing rhythms, which in turn influence their heart rate; and (b) physiological responses are idiosyncratic, akin to the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning framework. Congruent with our expectations, we observed a significant effect for galvanic skin response, with higher values observed for missed putts. This effect was robust to individual differences and suggests that biofeedback interventions aimed at enhancing awareness of autonomous physiological responses can be beneficial for performance enhancement in golf putting.
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Despite the growing momentum to infuse neuroscience into counseling, neuroscience-related publications are relatively scant in flagship counseling journals. In response, this January 2017 edition of the Journal of Mental Health Counseling introduces a new section entitled “Neurocounseling” that will remedy this gap in the literature. This article provides a rationale for the creation of the Neurocounseling section that includes a discussion of current trends in research initiatives, the evolution of the term neurocounseling, and the existing neuroscience-related publications in flagship counseling journals. Additionally, this article outlines the vision for the Neurocounseling section that will aid readers as they conceptualize and conduct neurocounseling research as well as prepare manuscripts for publication.
... The techniques that interns are trained on have been shown to enhance academic, athletic and artistic performance, as well as promote better health and wellbeing by reducing stress. For instance, neurofeedback can improve music performance, creativity, attentional focus, sports performance, and decrease stress in general (Egner and Gruzelier, 2003;Gruzelier, 2009;Levesque et al., 2006;Perry et al., 2011;Pacheco, 2016). In these instances, clients were trained to increase or decrease the specific EEG waveform parameters associated with improvement in either focus or stress reduction. ...
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