High levels of athletic performance are frequently attributed to mental states. Evidence for this attribution comes mainly from phenomenological reports of athletes. However, research with elite performers using electrophysiological measures has tracked changes in nervous system activity in real time during performance, which may further understanding of such states. Specific patterns of psychophysiological activity from the cerebral cortex, in the form of event-related slow potentials (SPs), as well as spectral content measured by electroencephalography (EEG), occur in the few seconds of performance (preshot) preparation. We discuss these data. We suggest that the logical structure of research with athletes differs from other psychophysiological research. We emphasize the theoretical mind-body issues and the logical structure of these investigations to suggest directions for future research.
George Lawton was a research psychologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute, Alexandria, VA, during the writing of this paper; he is now retired. Tsung-Min Hung is now at Taipei Municipal Teachers’ College, Taiwan. Pekka Saarela and Brad Hatfield are with the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland-College Park. Direct correspondence to Brad Hatfield, 2134-C Health and Human Performance, Department of Kinesiology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.