Adaptive Working Memory Training Reduces the Negative Impact of Anxiety on Competitive Motor Performance

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 Birkbeck University of London
  • 2 University of Exeter
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Optimum levels of attentional control are essential to prevent athletes from experiencing performance breakdowns under pressure. The current study explored whether training attentional control using the adaptive dual n-back paradigm, designed to directly target processing efficiency of the main executive functions of working memory (WM), would result in transferrable effects on sports performance outcomes. A total of 30 tennis players were allocated to an adaptive WM training or active control group and underwent 10 days of training. Measures of WM capacity as well as performance and objective gaze indices of attentional control in a tennis volley task were assessed in low- and high-pressure posttraining conditions. Results revealed significant benefits of training on WM capacity, quiet eye offset, and tennis performance in the high-pressure condition. Our results confirm and extend previous findings supporting the transfer of cognitive training benefits to objective measures of sports performance under pressure.

Emmanuel Ducrocq, Tim J. Smith, and Nazanin Derakshan are with the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck University of London, London, United Kingdom. Mark Wilson is with the Department of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom.

Address author correspondence to Emmanuel Ducrocq at manu.ducrocq@gmail.com.
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