Cortico-cortical Communication and Superior Performance in Skilled Marksmen: An EEG Coherence Analysis

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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Sean P. DeenyUniversity of Maryland-College Park

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Charles H. HillmanUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Christopher M. JanelleUniversity of Florida

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Bradley D. HatfieldUniversity of Maryland-College Park

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Electroencephalographic (EEG) coherence was assessed during a 4-s aiming period prior to trigger pull in expert marksmen (n = 10) and skilled shooters (n = 9) over the course of a regulation round of small-bore rifle shooting. Although both groups were highly experienced, the skilled group had lower ability. Given that specialization of cortical function occurs as domain-specific expertise increases, experts were predicted to exhibit less cortico-cortical communication, especially between cognitive and motor areas, compared to the skilled group. Coherence was assessed for three frequency bands (low alpha, 8–10 Hz; high alpha, 10–13 Hz; and low beta, 13–22 Hz) using sites F3, Fz, F4, C3, Cz, C4, T3, T4, P3, Pz, P4, O1, and O2. Compared to the skilled group, experts exhibited lower coherence between left temporal (T3) and mid-line frontal (Fz) regions for low-alpha and low-beta frequencies, lower coherence for high-alpha between all left hemisphere sites and (Fz), and lower coherence between T3 and all midline sites for the low-beta band. The results reveal that, compared to lesser skilled shooters, experts engage in less cortico-cortical communication, particularly between left temporal association and motor control regions, which implies decreased involvement of cognition with motor processes.

S.P. Deeny and B.D. Hatfield are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, HHP Bldg, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; C.H. Hillman is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, 906 S. Goodwin, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801; C.M. Janelle is with the Dept. of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32601.

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