Expertise Differences in Cortical Activation and Gaze Behavior during Rifle Shooting

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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The purpose of this study was to examine whether variability in gaze behavior and cortical activation would differentiate expert (n = 12) and nonexpert (n = 13) small-bore rifle shooters. Spectral-activity and eye-movement data were collected concurrently during the course of a regulation indoor sequence of 40 shots from the standing position. Experts exhibited significantly superior shooting performance, as well as a significantly longer quiet eye period preceding shot execution than did nonexperts. Additionally, expertise interacted with hemispheric activation levels: Experts demonstrated a significant increase in left-hemisphere alpha and beta power, accompanied by a reduction in right-hemisphere alpha and beta power, during the preparatory period just prior to the shot. Nonexperts exhibited similar hemispheric asymmetry, but to a lesser extent than did experts. Findings suggest systematic expertise-related differences in ocular and cortical activity during the preparatory phase leading up to the trigger pull that reflects more optimal organization of the neural structures needed to achieve high-level performance.

C.M. Janelle, N.P. Murray, and E.A. Fallon are with the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. C.H. Hillman is with the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801. R.J. Apparies and B.D. Hatfield are with the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. L. Meili is with the Division of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance at the University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844.